Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Germain, George Sackville
GERMAIN, GEORGE SACKVILLE, first Viscount Sackville (1716–1785), known from 1720 to 1770 as Lord George Sackville, and from 1770 to 1782 as Lord George Germain, was third and youngest son of Lionel Cranfield Sackville, seventh earl and first duke of Dorset, the friend of George II, who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, 1731-7 and 1751-6, and died in 1765, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant-general Colyear, and niece of the Earl of Portmore. He was born 26 Jan. 1716, and was educated at Westminster School. After residing for some time in Paris with his father, he accompanied him to Ireland, and entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he took his degree as B.A. in 1733, and was created M.A. in 1734. On 23 April 1737 he was appointed clerk of the council in Dublin, with Edward Dering as his deputy, and in July 1737 captain in the present 6th dragoon guards (carabineers), then on the Irish establishment as the 7th or Lord Cathcart's horse. This appears to have been Sackville's first military commission. His next was in 1740, when he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the 28th foot (now 1st Gloucester), of which Major-general Bragg [q. v.] was at the time colonel. In 1741 he was returned to parliament as one of the members for Dover, and sat for that borough in each succeeding parliament up to 1761 (his father being at the time lord warden of the Cinque ports). On 20 April 1743 Bragg's regiment was reviewed by the king at Kew, and at once embarked for Flanders. It does not appear to have been at Dettingen, but Sackville was one of the officers appointed king's aides-de-camp, with the brevet of colonel, a few days after the battle, by an order dated 27 June 1743 (Home Office Mil. Entry Book, xvii. 246). Sackville took part in the succeeding campaigns, and at Fontenoy, 11 May 1745, was shot in the breast at the head of his regiment, which penetrated so far into the enemy's camp that Sackville was laid in the French king's tent to have his wound dressed. The regiment had seventeen killed, seventy-four wounded, and forty-eight missing that day, though its presence in the battle is not mentioned in the published history of the 28th foot. Bragg's was one of the regiments ordered home on the receipt of news of the rising in Scotland, and the Duke of Cumberland wrote on 20 Sept. 1745 that he was 'exceedingly sorry to lose Lord George [Sackville], as he has not only shown his courage, but a disposition to his trade which I do not always find in those of higher rank' (De la Warre MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 282). Bragg's regiment was sent to Ireland, and on 9 April 1746 Sackville was appointed colonel of the 20th foot (now 1st Lancashire fusileers), which he joined at Inverness just after the battle of Culloden. He was stationed at Inverness, Dundee, and elsewhere in Scotland until the summer of 1747, when he returned to Flanders, apparently in advance of his regiment (ib.) In 1748 he was sent by the Duke of Cumberland on a mission to Marshal Saxe (ib. 9th Rep. (iii.)). After the peace the 20th foot was at home, and the major commanding, James Wolfe, in a letter dated 2 Aug. 1749, deplores the expected transfer of Sackville to a colonelcy of dragoons. 'Unless Mr. Conway fall to our lot,' he says, 'no possible successor can in any measure make amends for his loss' (Wright, Life of Wolfe, pp. 133-4). In November that year Sackville was transferred to the colonelcy of the 12th dragoons (now lancers), and in 1750 to that of his old corps, the present 6th carabineers, by that time the 3rd Irish horse or carabineers. Sackville was first and principal secretary to the lord-lieutenant, and secretary of war for Ireland during his father's viceroyalty in 1751-6, and during part of the time sat for the borough of Portarlington, Queen's County, in the Irish House of Commons, retaining his English seat the while. Abstracts of Sackville's papers relating to Irish affairs during 1750-6 are given in 'Hist. MSS. Comm.' 9th Rep. (iii.), pp. 40-58. They furnish little of political importance. A letter is quoted in which Sackville is described as 'the gayest man in Ireland except his father.' Sackville became a major-general in 1755, and, after vacating the Irish secretaryship, was appointed to command a brigade of line encamped on Chatham upper lines. In 1757, Lieutenant-general Charles Spencer, duke of Marlborough, and Major-generals Lord George Sackville and Waldegrave were appointed by warrant under the royal sign manual, to inquire into the conduct of General Sir John Mordaunt in the Rochfort expedition, a precedent existing in the case of Sir John Cope at Prestonpans (Clode, Administration of Justice under Military Law, p. 172). The court reported unfavourably of Mordaunt's conduct; but the court-martial which followed took a different view. The same year Sackville was appointed lieutenant-general of the ordnance, and was transferred to the colonelcy of the 2nd dragoon guards (queen's boys). Another descent on the French coast having been decided on, the command was given to the Duke of Marlborough, with Sackville and Lord Ancram as his lieutenants. A force of thirteen thousand guards and line and six thousand marines sailed from Spithead in June 1758. Having reconnoitred St. Malo, they landed in the bay of Cancale a few miles distant, and marched across country to the port, in two columns, the first commanded by Sackville. After burning some shipping, they returned to Cancale, and, hearing of the approach of a powerful French force, re-embarked somewhat precipitately. On 29 June the expedition appeared off Cherbourg, but the weather proving tempestuous, the admiral (Howe) forbore to attack, and returned to the Isle of Wight, where the troops were put on shore for refreshment, and their leaders returned to London, vowing they would 'go buccaneering' no more. Sackville's account of the expedition will be found in 'Hist. MSS. Comm.' 9th Rep. (iii.) 71-4. Contemptible as a military operation, it appears to have had the effect of diverting French reinforcements from Germany, whither part of Marlborough's troops were sent as a British reinforcement to the allied army under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick. The troops under Marlborough, with Sackville as his second in command, arrived in Hanover in September 1758. Marlborough died at Münster soon after, of an epidemic which had broken out among the British soldiers, and was succeeded by Sackville as 'commander-in-chief of all his majesty's forces, horse and foot, serving on the Lower Rhine or to be there assembled with the allied army under the command of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, commander-in-chief of the said army' (see Proceedings of Sackville's Court Martial). Sackville was sworn of the privy council the same year. Haughty in official intercourse and of an exacting temper, Sackville, according to the popular story, was speedily on bad terms both with Prince Ferdinand and with his own second in command, Lord Granby. Nothing of special importance, however, occurred until the battle of Minden or Thornhausen, 1 Aug. 1759. The French attack on the allied army in position commenced soon after dawn, and before 10 A.M. six regiments of British foot and two of Hanoverians on the allied left, aided by the British guns, had repulsed four attacks by the flower of the French horse, and had driven back an infantry brigade sent up in support. The moment appeared opportune for pursuit, and repeated orders were sent to Sackville to advance with the British cavalry, which was away behind a wood on the right, The orders were regarded as not sufficiently precise by Sackvlile, who, after some expostulation with Colonel Fitzroy, the bearer of the last order, peremptorily halted Granby, who had already got the blues in motion, and went off to confer with Prince Ferdinand. In the end the movement was made, but, to the vexation of the whole army, the moment for decisive action had gone by, and the British cavalry lost their share in the honours of the day. Prince Ferdinand pointedly omitted Sackville's name, while mentioning Granby, in his general order to the army after the battle, and in his despatch to England. Sackville having remonstrated, the prince replied: 'Je vous dirés doré tout simplement que je nài pu voir avec indifference ce qui e'est fait avec la cavallerie de la droite. Vous commandés tout le Corps Brittanniques; ainsi votre poste fixé ne devait pas etre tout la cavallerie, mais vous deviés egalement conduire les uns et les autres euivant que vous en trouviés l'occasion pour coopererals reussited' une journés iglorieuse pour l'armés. Je vous si fourni la plus belle occasion pour profiter et pour faire decider la sort de cette journés, si mes ordres avaient etês remplis au pied de la lettre, . . . Le temoinage que j'ai rendu à mylord Granby je lai dois parce qu'il le merite a tous egards at qu'il ne ma manquée dans tous d'occasions. Ce n'este regle que puisque je loue l'un que je blame l'autre. Mais il ne me peut pas être indifferent si mes ordres ne s'executent point et qu'on ne veut ajouter foi aux porteurs de cet ordre' (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. (iii.) 80). Sackville obtained leave to return home, and arrived in London three weeks after the date of the battle. On lO Sept. he was dismissed the service by a war-office letter from Lord Barrington, informing him that 'his majesty has no further need of your services as lieutenant-general and colonel of dragoon guards.' He was succeeded in his command in Germany and at the ordnance by his rival Granby. Horace Walpole writes of Sackville: 'He immediately applied for a court-martial, but was told it was impossible, as the officers were all away in Germany. This was in writing from Lord Holdernesse but my lord Ligonier in words was more squab. "If he wanted a court-martial he must go seek it in Germany." All that could be taken from him is his regiment, about 2,000l. a year, his command in Germany 10l. a day, 3,000l. to 4,000l., lieutenant-general of the ordnance 1,500l. a year, a fort 300l. He retains his patent place in Ireland, about 1,200l. a year, and 3,000l. of his wife and himself, With his parts and ambition it cannot end here; he calls himself ruined, but when parliament meets he will probably attempt some sort of revenge' (Walpole, Letter, iii, 249). Sackville was one of the very few men of acknowledged ability in parliament who were not connected with the party in power (Macaulay, Essay on Chatham). He pressed for a court-martial, which the government appeared in no hurry to grant. He published an 'Address to the English Public,' and an 'Answer to Colonel Fitzroy," When at last it was decided to refer to the law officers of the crown the question of the legality of trying an officer no longer in the service by court-martial for offences committed while serving, he was officiously warned that if the finding of the court were adverse, he would certainly be shot, like Byng. Sackville persevered with a dogged resolution that gave the lie to the common suggestion of cowardice (see the pamphlets under 'Sackville' in Watts, Cat. Printed Books; also Brit. Mus. Cat. Prints and Drawings, Div. i, iii. (ii.), 1197-1202, In some of the satires it is suggested that Sackville was bribed by France). The law officers having pronounced in favour of the trial—an opinion on which it would not be safe to rely (Clode, Admin. Mil. Law, p. 92)—a general court-martial, composed of eleven lieutenant-generals and four major-generals, under the presidency of General Sir Charles Howard, K.B., assembled at the Horse Guards. 3 Feb, 1760. Before this tribunal Sackville was arraigned on the charge of disobedience of orders. The disobedience (the judge-advocate, Charles Gould, was careful to explain) was confined to orders relating to the battle of Minden. Sackville objected to General Belford, of the artillery, as being under the influence of Granby. The objection was allowed.
After repeated adjournments caused by the illness of the president and the expiry in the meantime of the Mutiny Act, it was considered necessary to summon a new court. The court with the same president , was accordingly convened afresh at the Horse Guards on 25 March 1760, Sackville, who took a highhanded tone with the court, made an able and spirited defence. On 5 April the court agreed to its finding and sentence, which was that Sackville was 'guilty of having disobeyed the orders of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, whom he was by his commission bound to obey as commander-in-chief, according to the rules of war,’ and that ‘the court is further of opinion that he is, and he is hereby adjudged to be, unfit to serve his majesty in any military capacity whatever.’ George II confirmed the sentence, and directed that it be recorded in the order-book of every regiment with the following remarks: ‘It is his majesty's pleasure that the above sentence be given out in public orders, not only in Britain, but in America, and every quarter of the globe where British troops happen to be, that officers, being convinced that neither high birth nor great employments can shelter offences of such a nature, and that, seeing they are subject to censures worse than death to a man who has any sense of honour, they may avoid the fatal consequences arising from disobedience of orders.’ To complete Sackville's disgrace, the king called for the privy council books and erased his name therefrom. These last two acts were announced in the ‘London Gazette,’ 26 April 1760.
Sackville, who had retained his seat for Dover, was returned at the general election of 1761 for East Grinstead, Sussex, and Hythe, Kent, and elected to sit for the latter. The harshness with which the court-martial sentence had been carried out had not escaped public notice, and in the new reign there came the inevitable reaction. In 1762 Sackville spoke in the house for the first time since his disgrace (Parl. Hist. xv. 1222), and in April 1763, not eighteen months after the coronation of George III, we find Lord Bute writing to Sir Harry Erskine that the king admits and condemns the harsh usage of Sackville, ‘but is prevented by state reasons from affording him the redress intended’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. (iii.) 11 b). Sackville's name was soon after restored to the list of privy councillors, and he was received at court. In 1765, in which year he succeeded to the Knole Park estates on the death of his father, he was appointed joint vice-treasurer of Ireland, a post from which he was dismissed the year after. At the general election of 1768 he was returned for East Grinstead, which borough he represented in succeeding parliaments until his elevation to the peerage. Sackville was now a recognised follower of Lord North. From July to October 1769 were published the famous ‘Letters of Junius,’ with the authorship of which Sackville was early and very generally accredited. Sir William Draper was confident that the authorship lay between Sackville and Burke. The evidence in favour of Sackville's authorship, collected by J. Jaques, will be found among the Woodfall letters in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 27783), but the opinion has never been accepted by writers of authority. In 1770 Sackville was empowered by act of parliament to assume the name of Germain, in accordance with the provisions of the will of Lady Betty Germain [q. v.] In December of the same year Germain (Sackville) was greatly rehabilitated in public estimation by his duel with Captain George Johnstone, late governor of Pensacola, and then M.P. for Cockermouth. ‘Governor’ Johnstone, as he was called, a noisy politician, had expressed his surprise that Germain, on some particular occasion, should be so concerned about his country's honour when he cared so little for his own. Germain demanded an apology, which was refused. A meeting took place in Hyde Park. At the second exchange of shots Johnstone's bullet struck the barrel of Germain's pistol. ‘Mr. Johnstone, your ball struck the barrel of my pistol,’ said Germain. ‘I am glad, my lord, it was not yourself,’ rejoined Johnstone, who afterwards declared that in all the affairs in which he had any hand, he never knew a man behave better than Germain (Scots Mag. xxxii. 724). ‘Lord George Germain is a hero, whatever Lord George Sackville may have been,’ was Horace Walpole's characteristic comment (Letters, v. 269–70). In 1775 Germain, who continued to take an active part in politics, was appointed by Lord North a lord commissioner of trade and plantations, a post he held until 1779, and likewise secretary of state for the colonies, which he held until the resignation of the North cabinet in 1782. Germain zealously supported all the rigorous measures directed against the colonists, and acquired much influence with the king. He was the object of some virulent party attacks (see Russell, Life of Fox, note at p. 157; also Parl. Hist. 1776–81; and Walpole, Letters, vii. 11, 72). On the resignation of the North ministry, the king desired to confer some mark of favour on Germain, who asked for a peerage. He is said also to have asked to be made a viscount, as otherwise he would be junior to his own secretary, Lord Walsingham, to Loughborough, who was his lawyer, and to Amherst, who had been his father's page. On 11 Feb. 1782 he was created Viscount Sackville of Drayton Manor, Northamptonshire, and Baron Bolebroke of Sussex, in the peerage of the United Kingdom (copy of patent, Addit. MS. 19818, f. 271). A motion in the House of Lords by the Marquis of Carmarthen that Germain, being still under sentence of court-martial, was an unfit person for a peerage, was rejected, as was a similar motion on the day he took his seat. Sackville's last years were spent chiefly in retirement on his estates. His health was latterly enfeebled by guttering of long standing from stone, and his death is said to have been hastened by his efforts to be in his place in the House of Lords at the discussion of certain 'propositions' sent up by the Irish parliament. He died at his residence, Stoneland Lodge, Sussex (now included in Buckhurst Park), on 26 Aug. 1785, in the seventieth year of his age (Gent. Mag. lv. pt. ii. 667, 746).
Sackville married, in September 1754, Diana, second daughter and coheiress of John Sambroke, only brother of Sir Jeffreys Sambroke, bart., of Gubbins, Hertfordshire. She died on 15 June 1778, at the age of seventyfour, leaving two sons and three daughters. In person Sackville was tall, robust, and active. Although haughty and distant in manner in public, he was agreeable in private intercourse. His abilities appear to have been much above the average; his experience of public life and affairs was exceptionally wide and varied; he was quick in the despatch of business, and Walpole describes him as one of the best speakers in the House of Commons (Letters, iv. 194). He had no pretensions to scholarship, and those who knew him best declare that, although possessing a fine library, he rarely opened a book. There is no evidence of the 'transcendent abilities' as a statesman which have been sometimes claimed for him. Richard Cumberland, the dramatist [q. v.], his neighbour at Stoneland, describes him in his declining years, riding about his estate, followed by an aged groom, who had grown grey in his service, taking an intelligent interest in the welfare of his cottagers and retainers, or in the village church, in quaint Sir Roger de Coverley style, nodding approval of the sermon or rating the rustic choir for singing out of tune. A portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds has been engraved.[Collins's Peerage (1812 ed.), vi. 308–17; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 205; Rich. Cumberland's Character of the late Viscount Sackville (1785, 8vo), a pamphlet of which there are several copies in the British Museum. A biography of Sackville is given in Georgian Era, ii. 53. The Memoirs of the Rev. Percival Stockdale (London, 1809), i. 428–40, contains an account of Sackville at Brompton Camp and elsewhere. The statement at p. 433 should be compared with the rather apocryphal story in Colburn's United Serv. Mag. 1830, ii. 475. In the British Museum, among the printed books catalogued under ‘Sackville, afterwards Germain,’ will be found copies of Sackville's Address to the Public (London, 1759, fol.), and his vindication of himself in a letter to Colonel Fitzroy (1759, 8vo); also copies of the court-martial proceedings, printed ‘by authority.’ Among the maps is (30520) an ingenious one of the battle of Minden, showing the successive movements of the troops from 27 July to 2 Aug. 1759, which was prepared by Captain (afterwards General) Roy, and laid before the court-martial. Reference may also be made to J. Jaques's Hist. of Junius (London, 1843); Walpole's Letters, under ‘Sackville’ and ‘Germain;’ Wraxall's Memoirs, passim; Rich. Cumberland's Memoirs (ed. 1807), pp. 484–96. This, the quarto edition, contains a well-engraved portrait. Sackville's more important speeches will be found in Parliamentary History, vols. xvi–xxvi. His papers are now at Drayton House, Northamptonshire, and are the subject of a very full report forming Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. iii. They include three series of Irish papers, papers relating to Cherbourg and St. Malo, Minden papers, and Sackville's correspondence when secretary of state for the colonies, 1775–82. This collection also includes a large bundle of letters from Sackville to his friend General Sir John Irwin, by whose widow they were sold to the Duke of Dorset. They cover the period 1761–84. Other letters and papers in various private collections are indexed under ‘Sackville’ or ‘Germain’ in other Hist. MSS. Comm. Reports; but the Sackville Family MSS., reported on in Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep., contain no papers of so late a date. Besides numerous papers in the Public Record Office, Dublin, and in the Home and Colonial Series in the Public Record Office, London, the following papers exist in the British Museum: Sackville's Correspondence with Amherst and others, Addit. MS. 21697; with General Haldimand, Addit. MSS. 21702–4; Letters to General Grant, 1778–1779, Eg. MS. 2135, ff. 45, 52; to Lord Lisburne, 1779, Eg, MS. 2136, ff. 142, 145; to Governor Burt, Eg. MS. 2135, f. 79; Correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton, Addit. MS. 24322, ff. 47, 71: and with General Vaughan, Eg. MS. 2135 ff. 83–179.]