Hely-Hutchinson, John (1757-1832) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


HELY-HUTCHINSON, JOHN, Baron Hutchinson, afterwards second Earl of Donoghmore (1757–1832), general, second son of John Hely-Hutchinson (1724–1794) [q. v.], was born on 15 May 1757. He was educated at Eton, where Dean Bond was his tutor, and at Trinity College, Dublin. In May 1774 he was appointed cornet in the old 18th light dragoons, or Drogheda light horse. He obtained his company in the 67th foot, then in Ireland, in October 1776, and in 1781 was appointed major. In 1783 he became lieutenant-colonel in the 77th Athole highlanders, a very fine corps of highlanders raised on the Athole estates in 1778, which served some years in Ireland, and mutinied at Portsmouth when ordered to embark for India early in 1783. It was disbanded at Berwick-on-Tweed soon after (see Stewart, Scottish Highlanders, ii. 165–9 and lxxxi). Hutchinson remained on half-pay for the next eleven years, studied tactics at Strasburg, and when the French revolutionary armies took the field, gained access to their camps. He was in the French camp when La Fayette was forced to fly from his troops in August 1792. Hutchinson afterwards visited the opposing armies under the Duke of Brunswick, then near the French frontier, and subsequently joined the Duke of York's army before Valenciennes as a volunteer in 1793, and was some time employed as extra aide-de-camp to Sir Ralph Abercromby. Hutchinson's elder brother, Richard, afterwards first Earl of Donoughmore, having raised two regiments, known as the 94th and 112th foot, Hutchinson was appointed colonel of the 94th in 1794, and commanded the regiment (one of several which have consecutively borne the same number) until it was drafted into other corps the year after. He became a major-general 3 May 1796, and was appointed to the Irish staff. He was in command at Castlebar when one thousand French under Humbert landed in Killala Bay in August 1798. With fifteen hundred men, mostly fencibles and (disaffected) Irish militia, he had taken up a position in front of the town, when General Lake arrived, and assumed command at midnight on 29 Aug. On the approach of the enemy next morning most of the troops fled headlong, leaving six guns behind them. One party of cavalry is said to have galloped thirty miles before drawing rein. Hutchinson's account of the disgraceful affair will be found in Ross's ‘Cornwallis Correspondence’ (vol. ii. et seq.) Cornwallis, who was commander-in-chief as well as lord-lieutenant, appears to have blamed Hutchinson for his misplaced confidence in untried and untrustworthy troops before Lake's arrival (ib. ii. 411), and spoke of Hutchinson afterwards as ‘a sensible man, but no general’ (ib. iii. 360). Hutchinson retained his command. He sat for Lanesborough, co. Longford, in the Irish parliament of 1776–83, and for Cork city in the parliament of 1790–7 and 1798–1800. Cornwallis names him as one who spoke and voted in favour of the union in the great debate in the Irish House of Commons on 22 Jan. 1799, when the government was defeated (ib. iii. 43). On 5 Aug. 1799 he was appointed colonel-commandant of a newly raised second battalion 40th foot, Lord Craven being his lieutenant-colonel. As a volunteer Hutchinson accompanied Sir Ralph Abercromby to the Texel with the advance of the Duke of York's army, in August 1799, and when Lord Craven was disabled by the kick of a horse on going into action on 6 Oct., he took charge of Craven's brigade, and was severely wounded at its head by a rifle-ball in the thigh during the hard fighting round Alkmaar. He went out to the Mediterranean with Abercromby and Moore in the Seahorse frigate, arriving at Minorca in June 1800. He was with Abercromby at Leghorn and Genoa, and was appointed to command the right wing (ten thousand men) of the army of debarkation in the projected demonstration against Cadiz, which was abandoned on account of the pestilence raging in the city. The troops returned to Malta. Hutchinson as well as Abercromby was consulted by the government as to a descent on Egypt, and both regarded it as hazardous. In December 1800 Hutchinson was appointed to command the first division of Abercromby's army, which after many delays landed in Egypt, 10 March 1801. By seniority he succeeded to the command of the army on the fall of Abercromby in the great battle before Alexandria, 21 March 1801. For his services he received the thanks of parliament, and was made knight of the Bath. His generals appear to have had no confidence in him at first; and Sir Henry Edward Bunbury [q. v.] speaks of a cabal, little short of mutiny, formed by officers ‘of the highest rank’ for the purpose of virtually if not absolutely depriving Hutchinson of the chief command. They invited Coote and Moore to join them, and were foiled in their mad design chiefly by the uncompromising attitude of Moore (Bunbury, Narrative of Certain Passages in the late War, p. 128). Bunbury's description of Hutchinson partly explains his unpopularity. ‘He was 44 years of age, but looked much older, with harsh features jaundiced by disease, extreme short-sightedness, a stooping body and a slouching gait, and an utter neglect of his dress.’ He shunned, Bunbury continues, ‘general society, was indolent, with an ungracious manner and a violent temper.’ Yet he was a good scholar, while ‘on military subjects his views were large, and his personal bravery was unquestioned’ (ib. p. 129). Hutchinson's movements at first were slow and cautious, but when his plans were formed he carried them out with great sagacity and success. A small force, detached under Colonel Brent Spencer, having seized Rosetta, and leaving a force under Eyre Coote (1762–1824) [q. v.] to blockade the French garrison of Alexandria (which he did not feel strong enough to attack) on the land side, Hutchinson started from his camp near Alexandria on 7 May 1801 to march to Cairo, with the double object of meeting Baird's force, which was known to be on its way from India, and preventing any serious attack by the French in Upper Egypt on the Turkish army advancing from Syria. This movement enabled him to separate the French garrisons of Alexandria and Cairo, each of them stronger than his own available force, and to deal with each in detail. On 21 June 1801 he arrived with his 4,500 British troops at Ghizeh, opposite Cairo, the grand vizier with a disorderly rabble of twenty-five thousand Turks taking up a position on the opposite bank, within cannon-shot of the city, at the same time. The next day the French garrison of ten thousand men under General Belliard capitulated on honourable terms. They were sent down the Nile, a British force under Moore keeping between them and the Turks, for embarkation for France. Hutchinson, who was detained for a while at Ghizeh by illness, then returned to Alexandria, and, sending Eyre Coote across the inundation of Lake Mareotis to attack the city from the westward, began to prosecute the siege with vigour. Menou, who commanded in Alexandria, at first refused to acknowledge the surrender of Cairo, but on 27 Aug. 1801 proposals were sent out for a three days' armistice, and on 2 Sept. 1801 Alexandria surrendered. Hutchinson, desirous of saving bloodshed, knowing that peace negotiations were in progress in Europe, and that it was of the highest importance that the British should remain in undisturbed possession of the country, agreed to terms nearly similar to those granted at Cairo. With an honourable regard to the claims of science he also agreed to except from the capitulation the collections of the French savants, which eventually formed the Musée de l'Egypte. Before the middle of October the last French soldier left the country, and Hutchinson, after dealing vigorously with an attempted act of treachery on the part of the Turkish authorities towards the Mameluke beys, made over the command to Lord Cavan, and returned home at the end of the month. His services, the importance of which in the interests of European peace and the security of our Indian empire can hardly be overrated, were recognised by the thanks of parliament and a peerage. He was created Baron Hutchinson of Alexandria and of Knocklofty, co. Tipperary, with a pension of 2,000l. a year. He also received the new Turkish order of the Crescent in brilliants. On the renewal of the war Hutchinson held a major-general's command in the southern district (Kent and Surrey) under Sir David Dundas, until promoted to be lieutenant-general in September 1803. He was appointed colonel 74th highlanders in 1803, transferred to the 57th foot in 1805, and to the 18th royal Irish foot in 1811. He became governor of Stirling Castle in April 1806, and a full general in 1813. He was made G.C.B. on the reconstitution of the order of the Bath in 1814.

In November 1806 Hutchinson was sent by the Grenville ministry on an unsuccessful mission to the Prussian and Russian courts. He was with the Russian army in the field during the campaign ending with the disastrous battle of Friedland, near Königsberg, 14 Jan. 1807, and was afterwards a short time at St. Petersburg. He subsequently took little part in public affairs. He was a whig in politics, and in the Irish house had been reputed an effective speaker.

In 1820 Hutchinson, once a personal friend of George IV as Prince of Wales, and a member of the prince's council, was entrusted with a mission to Queen Caroline. Hutchinson met her at St. Omer (4 June 1820) with the offer of an allowance of 50,000l. a year, on condition of her relinquishing all English royal titles, and never visiting England. Brougham, the queen's attorney-general, appears to have been disposed to recommend acceptance of the terms except as regarded renunciation of any royal title (Life of Brougham, ii. 365–70). The queen refused to listen to the proposals, and started for England next morning (ib.) [see Caroline Amelia Elizabeth and Brougham, Henry Peter, Lord Brougham and Vaux]. On George IV's visit to Ireland Hutchinson appears to have interceded with him in favour of Sir Robert Wilson, who had been dismissed the service for alleged interference with the authorities on the occasion of Queen Caroline's funeral.

On the death of his brother Richard, the first earl, on 25 Aug. 1825, Hutchinson succeeded as second earl of Donoughmore. He died at his seat, Knocklofty, co. Tipperary, on 6 July 1832, aged 75. At his death the barony of Hutchinson became extinct. The pension of 2,000l. a year attached thereto, and a pension of 900l., drawn by him in respect of an abolished sinecure in the Irish custom-house, also ceased. He was succeeded in the earldom of Donoughmore by a nephew, John Hely-Hutchinson (1787–1851) [q. v.] A portrait of Hutchinson, by T. Phillips, R.A., is engraved in Cadell's ‘Contemporary Portraits.’

[Foster's Peerage, s.v. ‘Donoughmore;’ Philippart's Roy. Mil. Cal. 1820; Gent. Mag. 1832, pt. ii. 265; Sir H. Bunbury's Narrative of Certain Passages in the late War with France, London, 1853, containing much interesting information respecting Holland, the Mediterranean, and Egypt in 1799–1801; Sir Robert Wilson's and other narratives of the campaign in Egypt; Allardyce's Life of Admiral Lord Keith; Hutchinson's despatches in London Gazette, Ann. Reg. 1801, and Alison's Hist. of Europe, vol. v. A letter from Hutchinson to the Earl of Chichester in 1803 is in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 33110, f. 442. For the events in Germany in 1806–7 see Alison's Hist. and Court and Cabinets, George III, vol. iv. under dates, also Ann. Reg. 1807. Hutchinson's despatches from the Russian headquarters are in the Public Record Office, London, enrolled under ‘Germany,’ 1806–7. The private diary of Sir Robert Wilson, who was with Hutchinson at this period as military attaché, forms Add. MS. 30098. Two volumes of letters from Hutchinson to Wilson, from 1814 to 1828, form Add. MSS. 30125 and 30126. They are replete with interesting comments on current affairs in Ireland and on the continent, but the autograph letters are in shaky, scrawling handwriting which is all but illegible.]

H. M. C.