Pelham, Thomas (1756-1826) (DNB00)
|←Pelham, Thomas (1728-1805)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44
Pelham, Thomas (1756-1826)
PELHAM, THOMAS, second Earl of Chichester (1756–1826), born in Spring Gardens, London, on 28 April 1756, was the eldest son of Thomas Pelham, first earl of Chichester [q. v.] He was educated at Westminster and Clare Hall, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. in 1775. In the autumn of 1775, in order to learn Spanish, he went to Madrid on a visit to Lord Grantham, a friend of his family, who was then ambassador there. After remaining nearly a year in Spain, he went to France and Italy. In December 1776 he stopped for a short time at Munich and Vienna, where he had an interview with Kaunitz. He arrived in England early in 1778, and for the next two or three years was occupied with his duties as an officer in the Sussex militia. He became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment in 1794.
Pelham quickly developed a strong interest in public affairs. On 14 Sept. 1780 he was elected to the House of Commons for Sussex, and acted with the Rockingham whigs. His intimate friends soon included Fox, Windham, Lord Malmesbury, and Minto. In April 1782 he was appointed surveyor-general of the ordnance in Lord Rockingham's ministry. When he resigned office, together with Rockingham's successor, Lord Shelburne, in April 1783, George III expressed a hope that it would not be his final retirement. At the same time he was on intimate terms with the Prince of Wales (Addit. MS. 33128, ff. 103–105). In the summer of 1783 he reluctantly accepted the Duke of Portland's offer of the Irish secretaryship in the coalition administration (Addit. MS. 33100). According to Charlemont's biographer, he adroitly steered through a stormy session in the Irish House of Commons, in which he sat for Carrick (Hardy, Memoirs of Lord Charlemont, ii. 87). On the fall of Portland's government, Pelham declined the offer of Pitt, the new prime minister, to retain his office, but in January 1784 had ‘a very full and open conversation with Pitt and Lord Sydney on Irish affairs.’ Until the whig schism caused by the French revolution, he remained an active member of the opposition.
In 1785 he took exception to Pitt's Irish commercial proposals, and was a member of a committee appointed to inquire into Indian administration. On 2 March 1787 he moved the article charging Warren Hastings with breach of treaty and oppression in the matter of the rajah of Furrackabad (Parl. Hist. xxvi. 781 et seq.) During Hastings's trial Pelham spoke in support of the article of impeachment relating to the Begums of Oudh. In 1788 he declared himself in favour of regulation of the slave trade, in a debate initiated by Pitt; but he never submitted a promised proposition on the subject (ib. xxvii. 506).
Between 1789 and 1793 Pelham paid many prolonged visits to the continent. According to Lord Malmesbury, he was entrusted in June and July 1791 with letters to Lafayette and Barnave in Paris, interceding for the life of the king and queen; but he prudently burnt them (Diary, ii. 454). In the same year he visited Naples, where he dined with the king, and met Sir William and Lady Hamilton. In 1793, after a tour in Switzerland, he spent part of August in the Duke of York's quarters in Flanders. Early in 1794 Pelham definitely threw in his lot with the old whigs, who supported Pitt's foreign policy. Next year he took office under Pitt, becoming chief secretary to Lord Camden, the lord lieutenant of Ireland, who had replaced Lord Fitzwilliam. Before his arrival in Dublin in March Fitzgibbon, the lord chancellor, wrote to him: ‘I do not know a man who could come over here that would be so likely to succeed in composing the country as you’ (Lecky, vii. 93). Though opposed to catholic emancipation, Pelham wrote to a correspondent, when on his way to Ireland: ‘I will not lend my hand to a job for a clique on either side of the water. Resurgat Respublica, ruat Pitt, Beresford, &c.’ He had been elected member for Clogher in 1790, and represented that place till 1797, when he transferred himself to Armagh, and remained the representative of that city till the union. On 4 May 1795 he spoke against Grattan's emancipation bill, and thought that he thus inspired the protestants with a confidence in the English government which they had not felt for some time (ib. vii. 45, 103). In June Burke wrote to Pelham a long letter on Irish affairs, with especial reference to the newly established catholic seminaries (Addit. MS. 33101, ff. 191–2). But Pelham's health was bad; he was often in England, and soon wished to retire.
Mr. Lecky states that he spent more time in England than any Irish secretary since Grenville held office in 1782; yet he was in Ireland throughout the critical year 1797, during which his hope of pacifying Ireland sank very low (cf. Addit. MS. 32105, f. 327). After a severe illness he left Ireland in May 1798, on the eve of the rebellion. Castlereagh took his place temporarily, but Pelham never resumed it, and finally resigned in November. The king said of Pelham's withdrawal that it was ‘the greatest loss and greatest disappointment he could have experienced.’ Portland wrote, on 23 Dec. 1798, that the king hoped Pelham would be one of the commissioners in whom it was contemplated to vest the Irish government.
Throughout this period Pelham had retained his seat for Sussex at Westminster, and he attended the House of Commons when in London. On 22 Jan. 1801 Pelham moved, in an animated speech, the appointment of Addington as speaker (Parl. Hist. xxxv. 859; Colchester, Diary, i. 220). On 4 April he was voted chairman of the secret committee on the affairs of Ireland (Colchester, Diary, i. 263). On 13th instant he presented the report to the House of Commons, and on the next day moved for leave to bring in a bill to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland.
After having declined the offer of the secretaryship at war, the St. Petersburg em- bassy, and the presidency of the board of control, Pelham joined the Addington ministry as home secretary in 1801. In July of the same year, on his father's promotion to the earldom of Chichester, he took his seat in the House of Lords under his father's former title of Baron Pelham of Stanmer. He told Lord Malmesbury he only joined the cabinet by the express wish of the king. His relations with Addington were never smooth. He resented the withdrawal of colonial affairs from his department, and had differences with the prime minister both on foreign policy and Irish affairs. As home secretary Pelham had the superintendence of Irish affairs, and made vain efforts to draw all the Irish patronage into the hands of the home office (Colchester, Diary, i. 303 et seq.) In the House of Lords Pelham took the lead in defending the peace of Amiens; but he made a protest in the cabinet, in March 1802, against signing the definitive treaty in the same terms as the preliminaries. He did not resign, because he agreed with his colleagues on all other points (Malmesbury, Diary, iv. 73, 74). Malmesbury records in his diary a little later: ‘Pelham seems to have little influence with his colleagues, or not to consult with them, or be consulted by them’ (ib. iv. 192). When, in 1803, negotiations were opened by Addington with Pitt, Pelham offered to give up his office in order to facilitate matters; but as a recompense he expected the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster for life. The negotiations came to nothing; but Addington took advantage of Pelham's offer to remove him in July 1803 from the home office to the duchy, ‘subject to the usual contingencies.’ On 11 Sept. 1803 Pelham wrote to the king, detailing his grievances against Addington. Malmesbury and Lord Minto (Elliot) both thought Pelham badly treated (cf. Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 220 n.).
Pelham was deprived of the duchy of Lancaster on Pitt's re-entry into office in May 1804. When Pelham delivered up the seals, the king, without consulting Pitt, gave him the stick of the captain of the yeomen of the guard, adding, ‘It will be less a sinecure than formerly, as I intend living more with my great officers.’ Pelham soon resigned that post, and affected to believe that Pitt had entrapped him into it (Malmesbury, Diary, iv. 326–7). In January 1805, on the death of his father, Pelham became second Earl of Chichester. In March 1806 he declined Windham's offer of the government of the Cape. From May 1807 till 1823 he was joint postmaster-general, and from 1823 till his death was sole holder of the office. In 1815–17 he was president of the Royal Institution. At the coronation of George IV in July 1821 he was ‘assistant carver.’ He died on 4 July 1826.
Pelham was popular among his friends. Minto, in speaking of Pelham's satisfaction at the provision made for Burke in 1789, says: ‘He felt on the subject as if it concerned himself, or rather his own father or brother; for I never saw anybody less thoughtful of himself than Pelham, or more anxious for his friends.’ Lord Holland (to some extent a hostile witness) sums him up as, ‘though somewhat time-serving, a good-natured and prudent man’ (Memoirs of the Whig Party, i. 112); and Sir Jonah Barrington, who saw much of him during his second term of office in Ireland, calls him ‘moderate, honourable, sufficiently firm and sufficiently spirited.’ George III admired in him ‘a peculiar right-headedness.’ Queen Charlotte, writing to Pelham on 15 Aug. 1803, said that the friendship she bore to his wife was ‘almost that of a parent’ (Addit. MS. 33131, f. 85). Pelham was a good landlord, and improved agriculture in Sussex. A portrait of him as Irish secretary was painted by Hoppner and engraved by Reynolds. In 1802 another was executed by the same artist, and a later portrait by Dance was engraved by Daniel.
Pelham married, on 16 July 1801, Mary Henrietta Juliana Osborne, daughter of the fifth Duke of Leeds by his first wife. She died in Grosvenor Place on 21 Oct. 1862, having had four sons and four daughters. Of the latter, one died unmarried. The eldest son died in childhood; the second, Henry Thomas [q. v.], who succeeded to the earldom of Chichester, is, like the fourth son, John Thomas (1811–1894), bishop of Norwich [q. v.], separately noticed.
The third son, Frederick Thomas Pelham (1808–1861), entered the navy in June 1823, was appointed lieutenant in 1830, and commander in 1835. During 1837–8 he commanded the Tweed on the Lisbon station, and for his services received the cross of San Fernando of Spain. On 3 July 1840 he was advanced to post rank; in 1855 was again in the Baltic as captain of the fleet to Sir Richard Saunders Dundas [q. v.] on board the Duke of Wellington. On 6 March 1858 he was promoted to be rear-admiral, and was shortly afterwards appointed a lord commissioner of the admiralty under Dundas. He died on 21 June 1861. He married in 1841 Ellen Kate, daughter of Rowland Mitchell of Upper Harley Street, and left issue (O'Byrne, Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Navy Lists).[The Pelham or Newcastle MSS. in the British Museum afford full material up to 1804, after which date they contain little that is of value, except some letters from W. Coxe, to whom Chichester afforded much assistance in getting together material for his lives of Sir R. Walpole and H. Pelham. Other authorities besides those cited are: Lodge's Genealogy of the Peerage; G. E. C.'s Peerage; Doyle's Baronage; Luard's Grad. Cant.; Ret. Memb. Parl.; Ann. Reg. 1826; Append. Chron. p. 265; Parl. Hist. xxv.–xxxvi. passim; Irish Parl. Debates; Lecky's Hist. of England, vols. vii. viii. passim; Auckland Corresp. iv. 198, 234, 342; Windham's Diary, pp. 302, 341, 390; Life and Letters of first Lord Minto, i. 132, 135, 146, 262–3, ii. 56, 389, iii. 205, 217, 337; Lord Colchester's Diary, i. 220, 224, 233, 263, 277–8, 303–6, 420; Barrington's Personal Sketches, i. 180; Public Characters, 1800; Jesse's Memoirs of George III, iii. 269, 303, 318, 376, 379; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, Nos. 8171–2, 14204–5.]