Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/368

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Gregory
Gregory
356

policy; and shortly before Peel's loss of office in 1846 was offered by the premier the Irish lordship of the treasury, with the conduct of Irish business in the House of Commons, in the temporary absence of Henry Pelham Fiennes Clinton, Lord Lincoln (afterwards Duke of Newcastle [q. v.]), then chief secretary, from parliament. Gregory was persuaded by his friends, who feared the charge of unprincipled office-seeking, to refuse this offer, a decision he always deeply regretted, and which had an unfortunate influence on his subsequent career. After Peel's overthrow Gregory remained in nominal opposition to the ministry of Lord John Russell, but his sympathies were becoming more and more liberal. He took an active part in February 1847 in the discussion of the Poor Relief Act, designed by the Russell ministry to mitigate the misery caused in Ireland by the potato famine, and was the author of the 'Gregory clause,' which was intended to prevent the abuse of the act by disentitling the possessor of more than a quarter of an acre of land to eleemosynary assistance. He also procured the insertion of provisions for assisting emigration. At the general election of August 1847 Gregory found that his liberal tendencies had alienated many of his old supporters, and he failed to secure re-election. He was then nominated for his native county of Galway, but, being insufficiently supported, withdrew his candidature, and for ten years made no further attempt to enter parliament. In 1849 he was appointed high sheriff of Galway.

For the next six years Gregory devoted himself almost exclusively to the turf, for which he had early evinced a passion, and where he had won in his twenty-second Bjar as much as 5,000l. on Coronation's erby. By 1853 he was obliged to sell two-thirds of the fine estate of 7,000l. a year, to which he had succeeded on the death of his father in 1847. He visited Egypt in the winter of 1855-6 and Tunis two years later. He printed privately in 1859 a narrative of both these journeys, in two volumes. After this financial breakdown Gregory finally quitted the turf; but he retained his interest in racing matters to the close of his life, Not long before his death he contributed to Mr. Lawley's 'Racing Life of Lord George Bentinck' (1892) a number of interesting reminiscences of his career on the turf; and the editor, who appended to his account of Bentinck two valuable chapters on Gregory's racing career, laments that Gregory, 'who knew the turf and all its intricacies as well as Sir Walter Scott's "William of Deloraine" knew the passes and fords of the Scottish border,' and 'possessed the literary ability and keen insight into character requisite for the task,' could not be prevailed upon to write a history of the turf.

At the general election of 1857, his affairs being by this time put in order, Gregory was returned as a liberal-conservative and supporter of Lord Palmerston for co. Galway. He was re-elected for the same constituency at two successive general elections, and continued to represent it until 1871. During this second period of his active political life Gregory acquired a distinguished position in the House of Commons. Down to 1865 he ranked as a liberal-conservative, but after the death of Lord Palmerston, to whose views his own approximated more closely than to those of any other statesman, he formally joined the liberal party ; and on Earl Russell's accession to the premiership in 1866 was offered office as a lord of the admiralty in the liberal government. This he declined for private reasons. He was, however, opposed to the wide extension of the franchise, and joined the celebrated Cave of Adullam [see Horsman, Edward ; Lowe, Robert] in opposition to Russell's reform bill of 1866. He subsequently supported Gladstone in his Irish church sisestablishment measure and in his Land Act of 1870. Gregory held pronounced views on the subject of Irish agrarian legislation, and in 1866 introduced a measure which anticipated in some of its clauses the provisions of the Laud Acts of 1870 and 1881. But it was in reference to matters connected with the relations between the state and art that Gregory was best known in parliament. In 1860 he initiated a House of Commons inquiry, over which he presided as chairman, into the accommodation at the British Museum, and subsequently had much to do with the arrangement and development of the South Kensington collections. He was an ardent supporter of the opening of public museums on Sundays, took a keen interest in popularising the study of the arts, and for several years was regarded as the principal authority in the House of Commons on matters of this sort. In 1867 he was appointed a trustee of the National Gallery, on the recommendation of Disraeli, whose regard, in spite of political disagreement, Gregory always retained. Thenceforward he took the keenest interest in the development and enlargement of the national collection, a task for which his fine and cultivated taste well qualified him. Shortly before his death he presented the gems of his private collection of pictures to the National Gallery. In 1871 Gregory was appointed, on the