Pelham-Holles, Thomas (DNB00)
|←Pelham, William||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44
PELHAM-HOLLES, THOMAS, Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and of Newcastle-under-Lyne (1693–1768), statesman, only son of Thomas Pelham, first lord Pelham [q. v.], by his second wife, Lady Grace, youngest daughter of Gilbert Holles, third Earl of Clare, and sister of John Holles, duke of Newcastle [q. v.], was born on 21 July 1693. He was educated at Westminster School (of which he was subsequently, in 1733, elected a trustee), and at the university of Cambridge, where, on 9 May 1709, he matriculated from Clare Hall, as the Hon. Thomas Pelham. He added the name and arms of Holles to those of Pelham in July 1711, on succeeding (as adopted heir) to the bulk of the estates of his uncle, John Holles, duke of Newcastle. On 23 Feb. 1711–1712 he succeeded his father as Baron Pelham of Laughton. Though he did not graduate, he acquired a certain tincture of the classics at the university, which conferred on him the degree of LL.D. on 25 April 1728, elected him its high steward in July 1737, and its chancellor on 14 Dec. 1748.
On the death of Queen Anne he declared for the house of Brunswick, and on the accession of George I was created Viscount Haughton of Haughton in Nottinghamshire, and Earl of Clare in Suffolk (19 Oct. 1714). About the same time he was commissioned as lord-lieutenant of Middlesex, Westminster, and Nottinghamshire, steward of Sherwood Forest and Folewood Park, and, a little later (5 Jan. 1715), vice-admiral of the coast of Sussex. With his brother Henry, he raised a troop for service against the Pretender, and was rewarded with the title of Marquis of Clare and Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (11 Aug. 1715). By the second marriage (1713) of his brother-in-law Charles, second viscount Townshend [q. v.], with Dorothy Walpole, the great minister's sister, Newcastle was brought into intimate relations with Sir Robert Walpole. His own marriage, on 2 April 1717, with Lady Henrietta, eldest daughter of Francis, second earl of Godolphin [q. v.], and granddaughter of John Churchill, duke of Marlborough [q. v.], connected him with Charles Spencer, third earl of Sunderland [q. v.] His rent-roll of 25,000l. gave him enormous political influence. As a speaker, he was fluent, if discursive, and was occasionally effective in reply. He adhered at first to Townshend, but on the party schism of 1717 went over to Sunderland, was made lord chamberlain of the household, and sworn of the privy council (14 and 16 April). Forced by George I upon the Prince of Wales as godfather to his first-born son, Newcastle was insulted by the prince after the christening, on 28 Nov. 1717 [see George II]. On 30 April 1718 he was installed K.G. at Windsor. Throughout the reign of George I and his successor he was one of the lords justices who composed the council of regency during the sovereign's periodical visits to Hanover. On 21 Dec. 1721 he was appointed a governor of the Charterhouse. Newcastle resigned the lord-chamberlaincy on succeeding Lord Carteret as secretary of state for the southern department in Walpole's coalition administration on 2 April 1724. He held, jointly with Townshend, secretary of state for the northern department, the seals of secretary of state for Scotland, from the dismissal of John Ker, duke of Roxburghe, on 25 Aug. 1725, until Townshend's resignation on 15 May 1730. William Stanhope, baron Harrington (afterwards Earl of Harrington) [q. v.], then received the seals of the northern department, while the Scottish seals were given to Charles Douglas, earl of Selkirk. In April 1726 Newcastle was chosen recorder of Nottingham, and on 6 June 1729 was appointed steward, feodary, and bailiff of the duchy of Lancaster in the county of Sussex.
George II, on his accession, pronounced Newcastle unfit to be chamberlain to a petty German prince, but continued him in office. At court he was nicknamed ‘Permis’ in mockery of his sheepish way of prefacing what he had to say to the queen and princesses with ‘Est-il permis?’ and became the butt of Lord Hervey's caustic wit. At the council-board and in parliament he was, perforce, during the period of Walpole's undisputed ascendency, little more than his instrument and echo. He had, however, provided himself with an excellent mentor in Philip Yorke (afterwards Lord Hardwicke) [q. v.], who never forgot, even on the woolsack, that he owed his start in public life to the Pelham interest.
As Walpole's power began to decline, Newcastle began to coquet with the opposition. In 1737 he followed Carteret's lead by introducing, on occasion of the murder of Captain Porteous [q. v.], a bill of pains and penalties against the city of Edinburgh. The bill embarrassed Walpole; and one of Queen Caroline's latest acts was to send for Newcastle and severely censure his conduct. He also aggravated the differences with Spain by the high tone which he took in his memorial to the court of Madrid on occasion of the merchants' petition; and in other ways contributed to increase Walpole's difficulties. On the death of the queen he aspired to establish a separate interest at court by flattering the Princess Amelia. When Walpole offered the privy seal to Lord Hervey, Newcastle talked of resigning, but allowed himself to be overruled by Lord Hardwicke. He was mainly responsible for the desultory, ineffectual character of the naval operations, which led to perpetual wrangles with Walpole, whom he nevertheless loyally defended on Carteret's motion for his removal on 13 Feb. 1740–1. Horace Walpole's imputation to him of deliberate treachery to his chief cannot now be substantiated.
On the outbreak of the war of the Austrian succession, Newcastle espoused the cause of Maria Theresa, and denounced the treaty of Hanover (providing for the neutrality of the electorate) as unconstitutional and perfidious [see George II]. On Walpole's resignation, and under his guidance, he managed the negotiations which resulted in the formation of Lord Wilmington's administration. Retaining the seals of the southern department himself, he transferred those of the northern department from Harrington to Carteret, and the privy seal from Lord Hervey to Earl Gower. Harrington became president of the council, and Hardwicke retained the great seal. The virtual prime minister was Carteret, notwithstanding the fact that on Wilmington's death, on 2 July 1743, Henry Pelham succeeded to the first lordship of the treasury. The Hanoverian colour of Carteret's policy was a favourite theme with the opposition, and Newcastle discerned in the resulting unpopularity the means of ousting Carteret and succeeding to his position of predominance. When, therefore, the treaty of Hanau was transmitted for ratification, he, as virtual head of the regency, secured its summary rejection in July 1743, notwithstanding that thereby the fruits of the victory of Dettingen were entirely thrown away. On Carteret's return to England, Newcastle united against him a powerful junto within the cabinet, which was supported in parliament by the opposition. He thus forced the king to abandon the idea of taking command of the troops in Flanders. The ill-success of the subsequent operations under Marshal Wade [see Wade, George II 1673–1748] strengthened the hands of the coalition, and on 1 Nov. 1744 Newcastle laid before the king a memorial (drafted by Hardwicke) which extorted from him the dismissal of Carteret [see George II]. Carteret disposed of, Newcastle adopted his policy without improving on his expedients. The fortune of war continued adverse to the allies. The king lost his temper, and abused Newcastle in the closet. Newcastle accepted the abuse tamely enough, but vowed vengeance. Pitt was peculiarly obnoxious to the king, so Pitt should be forced upon him as secretary at war. When the matter was broached, the king positively refused to entertain the idea. The refusal was met by the concerted resignation of the majority of the ministers in the crisis of the Jacobite rebellion. Granville and Bath, whom the king sent for, failed to form an administration, and the Pelhams returned to power, with Pitt as joint vice-treasurer of Ireland (22 Feb. 1745–6).
In the course of the year the uninterrupted successes of the French in Flanders, and the evident inclination of the Dutch for peace, produced a schism in the cabinet. Pelham and Harrington, who had resumed the seals of secretary of state for the northern department, were for peace; Newcastle stood out strongly for war; and, by maintaining a clandestine correspondence with Lord Sandwich, ambassador-extraordinary at the Hague, occasioned Harrington's resignation (28 Oct.). Similar treatment, combined with disgust at the rejection of the overtures for peace made by France through Sir John Ligonier [q. v.], led to the resignation of Harrington's successor, Lord Chesterfield, on 6 Feb. 1747–8, upon which Newcastle transferred the seals of the southern department to the Duke of Bedford, and took the seals of the northern department himself (Add. MSS. 23823 f. 361, 23827 ff. 136, 142). This arrangement involved his attendance on the king at Hanover during the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle and the subsequent negotiations. At the congress the principal difficulty arose from the claim of the empress-queen to restitution of the Netherlands in their entirety. To induce her to waive this exorbitant pretension, Newcastle at first empowered Lord Sandwich to conclude a separate treaty with France, but afterwards revoked his instructions, and bade him conciliate the court of Vienna. This undignified change of front caused the withdrawal of the Dutch plenipotentiary, Count Bentinck, and, had not Lord Sandwich adhered to his original mandate, must have ruptured the negotiations altogether. Mortally offended by this display of independence, Newcastle avenged himself by driving Sandwich, and with him his friend the Duke of Bedford, from office on 13–14 June 1751. Robert D'Arcy, fourth earl of Holderness [q. v.], who succeeded Sandwich, consented to act as Newcastle's clerk, and the supremacy of the Pelhams was established.
At this period the principal object of Newcastle's diplomacy was to perpetuate the divisions between Austria and France. With this aim he supported the election of Archduke Joseph as king of the Romans, but that project was frustrated by the lukewarmness of the court of Vienna. On Pelham's death, 6 March 1754, Newcastle succeeded him as first lord of the treasury, with Henry Fox [q. v.] as secretary at war, and the incapable Sir Thomas Robinson secretary of state for the southern department and nominal leader of the House of Commons. The real leader of the House of Commons was the attorney-general, William Murray (afterwards Lord Mansfield) [q. v.] Fox, who declined the leadership because Newcastle had insisted on dissociating it from all participation in the disposal of the secret-service money, united with Pitt in making Robinson's position intolerable. Afraid to dismiss Fox, Newcastle eventually dismissed Robinson, and put Fox in his place, conceding the point in dispute (November 1755). When Lord Chesterfield heard of this he observed: ‘The Duke of Newcastle has turned out everybody else, and now he has turned out himself.’ The augury was speedily verified. The ministry was burdened with the defence of the Hanoverian subsidiary treaties, hastily negotiated by the king on the renewal of hostilities on the continent. Though not as yet declared, war with France had already begun in America. A fleet, under Sir Edward Hawke, lay idle at Spithead for months, while ministers debated what to do with it. Misled by the feints of preparations at Brest and Dunkirk for the invasion of England, they humiliated the nation by hurrying over Hessian and Hanoverian troops, while they overlooked the real object of the French, viz. the conquest of Minorca. Their discredit was completed by the success of the French expedition; and Newcastle, deserted almost simultaneously by Fox and Murray, tendered his resignation on 26 Oct. 1756. He gave up the seals on the formation of Pitt's administration on 11 Nov., was consoled (13 Nov.) with the title of Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme, with remainder to his favourite nephew, Henry Fiennes Clinton, ninth earl of Lincoln, in tail, and retired to Claremont. He attended the House of Lords on the occasion of the debate on the bill for releasing the members of Byng's court-martial from their oath of secrecy, in which, however, he took no prominent part. Horace Walpole represents him as from first to last bent upon securing the admiral's execution, but adduces no tangible evidence. His party was still numerically strong, and on Pitt's dismissal, on 5 April 1757, he was sent for, but refused to take office without the support of Leicester House. In the end, Pitt resumed the lead of the House of Commons as secretary of state for the northern department, while Newcastle returned to the treasury, bringing his brute votes with him (June 1757). Pitt's ascendency established, Newcastle found himself reduced to the same position of impotence which he had occupied under Walpole. On the accession of George III, he adopted the peace policy of Lord Bute [see Stuart, John, third Earl of Bute], who succeeded Lord Holderness as secretary of state for the northern department, and carried the majority of the ministers with him. Pitt, however, was no sooner out of office than the new ministers blundered into the very war with Spain which Pitt had sought to precipitate [see Wyndham, Charles, Lord Egremont]. Newcastle, who had hoped on Pitt's resignation to regain his old ascendency, found that he had only played jackal to Bute's lion, and veered round to the policy of continuing the war in Germany. He was accordingly driven out of office by an accumulation of studied slights, or positive indignities. When at length he tendered his resignation the king expressed neither surprise nor regret, but only spoke of filling up his place. Clinging to office with ignominious tenacity, he condescended to procure Lord Mansfield's ‘intercession’ with the favourite. Bute, however, was inexorable, and on 26 May 1762 Newcastle parted with the seals. He refused a pension, but was created (4 May) Baron Pelham of Stanmer, with remainder to his cousin, Thomas Pelham (afterwards first Earl of Chichester) [q. v.] Bute's ironical congratulations on his attainment of the peace befitting his advanced years elicited from him a flash of spirit worthy of a competent minister. ‘Cardinal Fleury,’ he replied, ‘began to be prime minister of France just at my age.’ Bute's hostility pursued him in his retirement; he was dismissed from his lord-lieutenancies and the stewardship of Sherwood Forest and Folewood Park. All who had received offices from him were cashiered. In face of this proscription his adherents melted away. The bishops, most of whom had received preferment from him, and had been conspicuous by their obsequiousness at his levees, fell from him almost to a man. ‘Even fathers in God,’ he wittily observed, ‘sometimes forget their maker.’ Newcastle closed his political career as lord privy seal in Lord Rockingham's administration, July 1765–August 1766. During this period he was one of the most earnest advocates of the repeal of the Stamp Act. Early in 1768 Newcastle had a paralytic stroke, after which he sank gradually, and died the same year (17 Nov.) at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. His remains were interred in the chancel of the parish church at Laughton, Sussex. His duchess survived until 17 July 1776, and was also buried at Laughton. Newcastle left no issue; and, except the dukedom of Newcastle-under-Lyme and the barony of Pelham of Stanmer, which devolved according to their limitations, his honours became extinct [see Clinton, Henry Fiennes, ninth Earl of Lincoln and second Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, and Pelham, Thomas, first Earl of Chichester].
By the acknowledgment of his bitter foe, Horace Walpole, Newcastle's person was not naturally despicable (Memoirs of the Reign of George II, ed. Lord Holland, i. 162), and probably he was less ridiculous in real life than he appears in Walpole's pages. It is evident, however, that he was nervous and pompous, always in a hurry, and always behindhand; ignorant of common things, and not learned in any sense. He is said to have earnestly besought Lord Chesterfield to let the calendar alone; to have discovered with surprise, after its conquest, that Cape Breton was an island; and to have been convinced of the strategic importance of Annapolis before he knew its latitude and longitude. His name is associated with no great legislative measure; and, though in abandoning Walpole's policy of non-intervention he was indubitably right, he evinced none of the qualities essential to a great minister of foreign affairs. The Spanish war he neglected, and the continental war he mismanaged. Had Carteret's counsels prevailed in 1743, peace might have been secured, at least for a time. Had Newcastle's counsels prevailed in 1748, the war must have been protracted to no purpose. His change of front in 1762 was probably due to mere personal pique; and, indeed, throughout his career a morbid vanity and immoderate love of place and power made him jealous, suspicious of his colleagues, fretful, and faithless.
On the other hand, he undoubtedly was, according to the standard of his age, an honest politician; and, while profuse in secret-service expenditure, kept his own hands clean, and died 300,000l. the poorer for nearly half a century of official life. Newcastle was a devout churchman, a patron of men of letters (cf. Garth, Claremont, and Congreve's ‘Dedication’ prefixed to Tonson's 12th edition of Dryden's Plays, 1717), a placable foe, an easy landlord, a kind master, and a genial host. The fame of the Homeric banquets with which he used to regale his tenantry and dependents survived in Sussex until the present century. His portrait, by William Hoare, belongs to the Duke of Newcastle; another, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, is among the Kit-Cat Club portraits at Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire.[Collins's Peerage (Brydges), v. 521; Doyle's Official Baronage; Lower's Pelham Family and Glimpses of our Sussex Ancestors; Coxe's Pelham Administration; Hist. Reg. 1714–38; Ann. Reg. 1738–68; Boyer's Political State of Great Britain, 1714–40; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of Engl. continued by Noble, iii. 19; Memoirs of the Kit-Cat Club (1821); Lords' Journals, xx. 27, 166, xxxii. 203; London Gazette, 13 Nov. 1756; Coxe's Memoirs of Sir R. Walpole and Horatio, Lord Walpole; Lady Cowper's Diary; Lord Hervey's Memoirs; Correspondence of John Russell, fourth Duke of Bedford; Marchmont Papers; Glover's Memoirs; Lord Chesterfield's Letters, ed. Mahon; Ernst's Life of Lord Chesterfield; Ballantyne's Life of Lord Carteret; Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George II, ed. Lord Holland; Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George III, ed. Sir D. Le Marchant; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham; Waldegrave's Memoirs; Harris's Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke; Chatham Correspondence; Bubb Dodington's Diary; Fitzmaurice's Life of Lord Shelburne; Albemarle's Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham; Grenville Papers; Phillimore's Memoirs of George, lord Lyttelton; Holliday's Life of Lord Mansfield, p. 425; Life of Bishop Newton, prefixed to his Works; Cooke's History of Party; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. and Illustr. of Lit.; Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep. passim; Sussex Archæol. Collect. iii. 228, vii, 109, 232, ix. 33, x. 49, xi. 188, 191–203, xiii. 24, xiv. 188, 210, xix. 217, xxiii. 74, 80; Addit. MSS. 23627–23630, 34523 et seq.; Haydn's Book of Dignities, ed. Ockerby; Lecky's Hist. of Engl. in the Eighteenth Century; Mahon's Hist. of Engl.; Carlyle's Frederick the Great; Adolphus's Hist. of the Reign of George III; Jesse's Memoirs of George III; Torrens's Hist. of Cabinets; Brit. Mus. Cat.]