CORRY, Isaac (1752-1813), of Derrymore House, co. Armagh.
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Family and Education
b. 15 May 1752, 1st s. of Edward Corry, MP [I], merchant, of Newry, co. Down by w. Catherine Bristow of co. Antrim. educ. R. sch. Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 1768; M. Temple 1771, called [I] 1779. unm. 3s. 3da. by Jane Symms. suc. fa. 1792.
MP [I] 1776-1800.
Equerry to Duke of Cumberland 1782-9.
Clerk of Ordnance [I] 1788; commr. of customs [I] 1789-97, of treasury [I] 1797-1804; chairman of ways and means [I] 1798-9; chancellor of exchequer [I] Jan. 1799-July 1804; surveyor-gen. crown lands [I] 1798-d.; member of Board of Trade Jan. 1807.
PC [I] 18 Aug. 1795, [GB] 25 Sept. 1799.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1784.
Capt. Newry vols. 1780, commdt. New Ross fencibles.
Corry, like his father, represented Newry in the Irish parliament, and in 1782, while an equerry to the Duke of Cumberland, was described as ‘inclined to government and desirous of office’. Sylvester Douglas wrote of him in 1794:
He is a well-bred man and seems to have parts. He has no brogue but he is ... un peu intriguant en politique et en amour ... He once acted as a sort of groom of the bedchamber to the late Duke of Cumberland. The scandalous chronicle said he was a favourite of the Duchess of Cumberland, as he is said to have been of the late Mrs O’Neale.
Henry Grattan junior, with whose father Corry first took issue in defence of the Union and then fought a duel, 18 Feb. 1800, in which Corry, the challenger, was slightly injured in the arm, summed him up as an adventurer without means, though not without ability.1
Abandoning the popular side in 1788, he became a placeman and was reported by the chief secretary to wish to go to the treasury in 1796. He lost his seat on the Union ballot and, as he had to be in Parliament as Irish chancellor of the exchequer, the Irish primate offered government the borough of Armagh for Corry, only to discover that he was a supporter of Catholic relief, whereat he withdrew the offer. The King himself was prepared to urge this veto.2 Meanwhile Addington succeeded Pitt and, both of them having persuaded him to remain in office, he was returned at Addington’s instigation for Lord Roden’s borough of Dundalk.
Corry made his debut at Westminster by presenting the Irish budget on 1 Apr. 1801 and appeared to advantage as a speaker. He confined himself entirely to Irish questions and mostly to financial subjects, gaining official approval. Charles Abbot the Irish secretary, after rehearsing the standardization of Irish public revenue legislation on English lines with Corry before the session of November 1801, informed the premier, ‘He has been a very serviceable and kind friend to us’ and urged Addington to consult him on Irish matters. Corry’s letters to Abbot from Westminster reflect an appreciation and enjoyment of the scene unusual in Irish Members, and when he clashed with John Foster in March 1802 on the plan for Irish finance legislation, he got the better of him by insisting on assimilation to English parliamentary practice. Not surprisingly, he was ‘particularly liked by Englishmen in the United Parliament’. His only failing, apart from ill health, was an obstinate independence of the chief secretary: Wickham in May 1802 found him adamant on the question of transferring the inspection of imported flax seed to the linen board and subsequently complained of Corry’s remaining ‘so Irish in his conduct’.3
At the election of 1802, Corry reverted to his seat for Newry, regarding himself as ‘riding the foremost horse’ there and probably assisted to this end by his friend Castlereagh. He carried the Irish Revenue Acts in the session of 1802-3, but his critics hardened: Foster, whose services as an Irish expert government hoped to enlist, refused in September 1803 to join them if Corry remained; and Wickham, as chief secretary, became increasingly exasperated by Corry’s upstaging him at Westminster and neglecting to consult his colleagues on Irish financial business. The fact was, so Lord Redesdale maintained, that Corry considered Wickham ‘as his rival. He grossly misconducts the revenue business in many points, and is perpetually involving the Irish government in difficulties.’ By January 1804 the viceroy, having lost Wickham’s services, had come to share this view and informed his new secretary Nepean:
the leaving the conduct and management of the Irish business to Mr Corry will tend in the first instance to dissatisfy and alienate, and afterwards invite the opposition of many Irish Members who are otherwise well disposed to the present government, for it is manifest that as a public man he is universally unpopular with that part of the House of Commons to which he is best known.
In view of Nepean’s inexperience, Corry’s parliamentary role was unlikely to be diminished, but Addington himself thought ‘no difficulty will arise in affixing the limits of Mr Corry’s parliamentary interference in Irish affairs in future’.4
No difficulty arose, because Corry was dismissed by Pitt in May 1804 in favour of Foster, but with assurances of compensation. Corry was soon ‘very much out of humour’ at the delay in providing for him and in June and July clashed with Foster in the House. Pitt finally decided on £2,000 p.a., half chargeable on the English and half on the Irish establishment, in preference to Corry’s own suggestion that he retain the title of chancellor ‘as a mere Exchequer court officer, with the salary annexed to it, £1,200 a year, and its fees amounting to about as much more’. Although Corry was subsequently (September, December 1804) listed a supporter of Pitt, he was not to be counted on. He was critical of Foster’s budget in March 1805 and still prepared to score points off him; and although he was in the government minority on Melville’s question, 8 Apr. 1805, he was also in the minority for Catholic relief, 14 May, and intervened seldom enough in debate for the rest of the session. Matters were not helped by Hardwicke’s refusal to sign the warrant for Corry’s Irish pension, on the grounds that it took up nearly the whole of the pension fund allotted per annum, at the expense of other engagements. To avoid collision, Pitt postponed the matter until Hardwicke was replaced, as was intended, by another viceroy.5
On Pitt’s death, his successor Lord Grenville also found it difficult to obtain Irish provision for Corry, of whom the official view in May 1806 was ‘Not likely to be active in his opposition to government, and expects favours which may furnish him with an excuse for giving support’.6 In fact, he voted with government for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and he could not resist a squabble over Foster’s critique of the Irish budget, 7 May. His election prospects at Newry were not good and after government had managed to thwart his attempt to outbid them for the purchase of Tralee, they compensated him with a Treasury seat for Newport, towards which Lady Downshire was prepared to contribute £4,000.7 On being defeated at Newry, he accepted this favour and, becoming a member of the Board of Trade in January 1807, rewarded his patrons with a few words in favour of their financial plan, 29 Jan. and 19 Feb., and a defence of their Catholic bill, 5 Mar. He also voted for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, urged on by Lady Downshire, 9 Apr. 1807. He was again defeated at Newry in the ensuing election and Lady Downshire was unable to obtain another seat for him through Lord Grenville. He did not again stand for Parliament and in 1812 actually supported his rival at Newry to spite the Catholics, who had overlooked him. Corry died 15 May 1813 in reduced circumstances.8
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Arthur Aspinall
- 1. Procs. R. Irish Acad, lvi, sec. C, no. 3 (1954), 245; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 34; Life of Grattan, v. 104-6; HMC Fortescue, vi. 104, 136.
- 2. Add. 33119, f. 43; Glenbervie Diaries, loc. cit.; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2329, 2332-3.
- 3. Farington, ii. 80; Sidmouth mss, Abbot to Addington, 26 Oct. 1801, Wickham to same, 30 Apr. ; Colchester, i. 376-9; Add. 35708, f. 33; 35713, ff. 38, 59, 92; 35714, f. 110; Wickham mss 1/46/29.
- 4. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/2, Corry to Abbot, 6 Jan. 1802; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3129; Wickham mss 1/6; 1/9/7, Abbot to Wickham, Tues [?7 June]; 5/34, Corry to same, 20 Jan., 12 Dec. 1803; Add. 35708, f. 224; 35715, f. 3; 49188, f. 103; PRO 30/9/15, Marsden to Abbot, 17 Jan. 1804.
- 5. Add. 35706, f. 272; 35710, f. 136; 35715, ff. 53, 74, 122; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 5/34; Parl. Deb. iv. 16, 36; v. 435; Fortescue mss, Corry’s memo Mar. 1806.
- 6. HO 100/135, f. 96; HMC Fortescue, viii. 175; Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806.
- 7. Spencer mss, Elliot to Spencer, 7 June 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 387, 393, 396; NLS mss 12918, Fremantle to Elliot, 17 Nov.; 12911, Elliot to Fremantle, 20 Nov., 6 Dec., 1806.
- 8. HMC Fortescue, viii. 490; Fortescue mss, Lady Downshire to Grenville, 8, 29, Apr., reply 30 Apr. 1807; see NEWRY; A. P. W. Malcomson, Isaac Corry: An adventurer in the field of politics (PRO NI, 1974).