Legge, William (1731-1801) (DNB00)
|←Legge, William (1672-1750)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32
Legge, William (1731-1801)
LEGGE, WILLIAM, second Earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801), younger son of George Legge, viscount Lewisham, by his wife Elisabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Arthur Kaye, bart., of Woodsome, Yorkshire, and grandson of Willtum Legge, first earl of Dartmouth [q. v.], was bom on 20 June 1731. His father died on 29 Aug. 1732, and his mother, who subsequently became the second wife of Francis, seventh baron North afterwards first earl of Guilford, died on 21 April 174fi. He was educated as a town-boy at Westminster School, and matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, on 14 Jan. 1749, where he was created M..A 21 March 1751, and D.C.L. 28 April 1756. He succeeded his grandfather as second Earl of Dartmouth on IS Dec, 1750, and upon his return from a foreign tour with Fredenck (afterwards Lord) North, took his seat in the House of Lords on 31 Mav 1754 (Journals of the Route of Lords, xviii. 270). At the beginning of George III's reign Dartmouth is said to have applied for the office of lord of the bedchamber, and to have been rejected by Bute, 'lest so sanctimonious a man should gain too far on his majesty's piety' (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III, i. 416). On 30 March 1763 he attacked the Cider Bill 'with decency and propriety' (ib. i. 263), and voted in the minority against it— the firat occasion on which the lords were ever known to have divided on a money bill (Parl. Hist. xv. 1310). On 21 Feb. 1764 he condemned Brecknock's 'Droit le Roi' in terms of great severity (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III. i, 384). On being urged by the Duke of Newcastle to reconsider his refusal to take office in Rockingham's first administration (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. V. p. 331), Dartmouth was appointed president of the board of trade and foreign plantations on 19 July 1765, and was admitted to the privy council on the 26th of the same month. He resigned office on the formation of the Duke of Grafton's ministry (30 July 1766), and in August 1772 succeeded Lord Hillsborough as Secretary of state for the colonies and president of the board of trade and foreign plantations in Lord North's administration, posts which he retained until Norember 1775, when he was the American troubles, on 1 Feb. 1773, Dartmouth declared himself unable to make up his mind,' owing to the variety of matter it contained' (Parl. Hist. xviii. 501), but before the debate closed announced that he had decided to vote for its immediate rejection (Life of Benjamin Franklin, ii. 307). Writing a few months afterwards to William Franklin. Benjamin Franklin says Dartmouth 'is a truly good man, and wishes sincerely a good understanding with the colonies, but does not seem to have strength equal to his wishes' (ib. ii. 154). In March 1775 Dartmouth recommended Lord North's conciliatory propositions to the governors of the American colonies, 'in language of much force and evident sincerity' (Lecky, Hist. of England, 1882, iii.424-5). On 1 Sept. 1775 he received the 'Olive Branch' from Richard Penn, and subsequently intimated that no notice could be taken of it. In this year also he carried the bill for restraining the trade of the American colonies through the House of Lords, and succeasfully opposed Lord Camden's bill for the repeal of the Quebec Government Act (Part. Hist. xviii. 430. 465. 457, 662). He opposed the Duke of Grafton's proposal for conciliation with America at some length on 14 Match 1776, declaring that the only remedy was an over-powering force (ib. xviii. 1264-6). In December 1779 he spoke against the Duke of Richmond's motion for a reform of the civil list estabishment, and 'imagined every member of that House beheld with satisfaction the increase of bis Majesty's family, and consequently the greater necessity of an ample revenue.' (ib. xx. 1259-60). Upon the downfall of Lord North's administration, in March 1782, Dartmouth resigned the privy seal. From April to December 1783 he served as lord steward of the household in the coalition ministry. He held no further political office. Dartmouth was appointed by Lord North, in Julv 1788, high steward of Oxford Universitv (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. v. p. 424). He died at Blackheath, Kent, on 15 July 1801, in the seventy-first year of his age, and was buried in Trinity Church in the Minories on 3 Aug. following.
Dartmouth was an amiable, pious man. He spoke but rarely in the House of Lords, and was entirely without any administrative capacity. George III was greatly attached to him, and in a letter dated 27 March 1782 avows 'how very dear he will always be to my heart,' adding, 'What days has it pleased the Almighty to place me in when Lord Dartmouth can be a man to be removed but at his own request!' (ib. p. 443). He was an intimate friend of Selina, countess of Huntingdon, and during her serious illness, in November 1787, it appears that he was selected as 'the fittest person' to continue her work in the event of her death (Life and Times of Selena, Countess of Huntingdon, ii. 13-13). Owing to his strong attachment to the methodists, Dartmouth acquired the nickname of 'The Psalm-singer' (Wraxall, Hist. and Posth. Memoirs, 1884, iii. 268), and Cowper alludes to him in 'Truth' as 'one who wears a coronet and prays' (line 378). John Newton, whom Dartmouth nominated to the curacy of Olney, addressed to him the 'Twenty-six Letters to a Nobleman,' which were subsequently published in 'Cardiphonia,' London, 1781, 12mo. In a letter to Hannah More, dated 7 April 1799, Newton repeats the story that Richardson, when asked for the original of Sir Charles Grandison, said he might apply the portrait to Lord Dartmouth if he were not a methodist (William Roberts, Memoirs of Mrs. Hannah More, 1885. iii. 78). Dartmouth College, in the United States, incorporated by charter on 13 Aug. 1769, and was so named in honour of the earl, 'who was one of the most jealous promoters of the enterprise in Great Britain' (Encycl. Americana, 1885, ii. 541 ). Dartmouth was appointed recorder of Lichfield in 1767, acting-lieutenant of Alice Holt and Woolmer forests 11 March 1773, and governor of the Charterhouse 23 Nov. 1781. He was elected F.S.A. on 7 Nov. 1754.
Dartmouth married, on 11 June 1756), Frances Catherine, only daughter and heiress of Sir Charles Gunter Nicholl. K.B., by whom he had eight sons, vii, (1) George [q. v.], who succeded him as the third earl; (2) William, barrister-at-law of the Temple, and groom of the bedchamber prince of Wales, who died 19 Oct. 1784; (3) Charles Gunter, a lieutenant-colonel, who died 11 Oct. 1786; (4) Heneage, of Christ Church, Oxford, who graduated B.A. in 1781, and died 2 Sept. 1782; (5) Henry, a bencher of the Middle Temple, and sometime under-secretary at the Irish office, who died 19 April 1844; (6) Arthur Kaye, an admiral of the blue, who was created K.C.B. in 1815, and died 12 May 1836; (7) Edward, who became bishop of Oxford, and died 27 Jan. 1827; (8) Augustus George, rector of North Waltnam, Hampshire, and archdeacon and chancellor of Winchester, who died 21 Aug. 1828, and one daughter, Charlotte, who married, on 24 Sept. 1795, Charles Duncombe, afterwards first baron Feversham, and died, aged 74, on 5 Nov. 1848. His widow died on 24 July 1805, and was buried in the Dartmouth vault in Trinity Church in the Minories.
Dartmouth sat to Sir Joshua Reynolds five times, and his wife sat twice. Two of these portraits were lent by the Earl of Aylesford to the winter exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1889 (Catalogue, Nos. 96, 46). A half-length portrait of Dartmouth painted by Pompeio Battoni in Rome in 1754, and two other portraits painted by Reynolds and Gainsborough respectively, are in the possession of the present earl.
A large mass of Dartmouth's correspondence is preserved at Patshull House, Wolverhampton (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. v. pp. viii-ix, 330 et seq.) Many of these papers relate to the struggle for American independence, and among them are letters from Governor Hutchinson, General Gage, and Joseph Reed of Philadelphia, afterwards secretary to Washington, who kept Dartmouth informed of the feeling of the colonists towards England, and warned him of the course which the cabinet was pursuing during 1773-5. There are also numerous autograph letters of George III to Dartmouth (ib. pp. 437-42), and a long and interesting letter from John Wesley, dated 14 June 1775, protesting against the American war, and bidding him remember Rehoboam, Philip II, and Charles I (ib. pp. 878-9). Some of his correspondence is preserved at the British Museum (see Indices to Catalogues of Additions to the Manuscripts, 1864-75 and 1882-1887).
[Horace Walpole's Hist, of the Reign of George III, 1845; Lord Mahon's Hist, of England, 1851, vols. v. and vi.; Bancroft's Hist, of the United States of America, 1876, yols. iii. iv. v.; Life of Benjamin Franklin, ed. John Bigelow, 1879, vol. ii.; Life and Times of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, 1844; Cecil's Memoirs of the Kev. John Newton, 1808, pp. 132-4; Jesse's Memoirs of George III, 1867, vols. i. ii.; Hasted's Kent, 'Hundred of Blackheath,' 1886, pp. 244-5; London Mag. 1780, xlix. 443-5, with portrait; Gent. Mag. 1801, pt. ii. pp. 768, 792; Ann. Reg. 1801, Chron. p. 85*; Collins's Peerage, 1812, iv. 121, 122-3; Burke's Peerage, &c. 1890, p. 376; Doyle's Official Baronage, i 1886, i. 517; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1888, iii. 835; Alumni Westmon. 1852, pp. 546, 556, 575; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1851.]