DILLON LEE, Hon. Henry Augustus (1777-1832), of Loughlin House, co. Roscommon and Ditchley Hall, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Oct. 1777 at Brussels, o.s. of Charles Dillon Lee†, 12th Visct. Dillon [I], by 1st w. Hon. Henrietta Maria Phipps, da. of Constantine, 1st Baron Mulgrave [I]. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1795. m. 9 Feb. 1807, Henrietta, da. of Dominick Geoffrey Browne of Castle Macgarrett, co. Mayo, sis. of Dominick Browne*, 5s. 2da. suc. fa. as 13th Visct. Dillon [I] 9 Nov. 1813.
Col. Irish brigade 1794, 101 Irish Ft. 1806-17.
Commdt. Loughlin yeoman cav. 1797.
Dillon was the grandson of an Irish Catholic officer in the French service and son of a convert absentee with a substantial Irish estate who lived on his Oxfordshire one and whose chief ambition was an English peerage. He was brought up by his childless uncle, Lord Mulgrave, as if he had been his own son.1 Mulgrave’s friendship with Pitt must have facilitated Dillon’s return for the Treasury borough of Harwich soon after he came of age, but he made no mark in his first Parliament and, to judge by the sequel, probably because ill at ease in it, for he was an opponent of the Irish union who in 1801 published a Short view of the Catholic question, a 50 page pamphlet in favour of Catholic relief. At the same time he was put up by his father, who shared his views, for county Mayo, after rejecting the notion of contesting Roscommon as candidate on the anti-Union interests.2
On the eve of the election of 1802, he came to terms with one of the sitting Members Colonel Jackson, whose withdrawal secured Dillon’s unopposed return. Government had refused to arrange this for the Dillons and, as county Member, he was regarded as unfriendly to them.3 Canning had suggested Dillon as a steward for Pitt’s birthday dinner in May 1802. Soon after his election he was gravely ill, though he seems to have contrived to visit France and on 24 Nov. 1802 he stated in debate that he thought the country degraded by ministers’ conduct since the peace. When he voted against government on the Prince of Wales’s finances, 4 Mar. 1803, the official comment was ‘quite right’, it being supposed by the chief secretary that government’s refusal to grant his father an English peerage would confirm his opposition. On 3 June Dillon voted for Patten’s censure motion, on which Canning’s comment was: ‘Dillon is perhaps rather a Windhamite than one of us’.4 On 2 Aug. he was in the opposition minority for a council of general officers and on 7 Mar. 1804 for Wrottesley’s motion against the Irish administration. He went on to vote in the minorities of 14, 15, 19 Mar. and 10, 16, 23 and 25 Apr. 1804 which heralded Addington’s fall. The latter event prevented a motion, of which he had given notice on 23 Apr., for a bill to exempt Catholics in the Irish militia from the penal statutes against them.
On Pitt’s return to power Dillon was at first listed a Grenvillite, but acted as teller for the Irish duties, 22 June 1804, and could be counted by the autumn a friend of government, as also in December. On 15 Jan. 1805 he moved the address to Pitt’s satisfaction, congratulating ministers on the war effort. His honeymoon with government ended abruptly when he supported and was teller for the Catholic petition, 14 May 1805, announcing that Pitt’s resistance to Catholic claims prevented him from supporting the minister any longer. He again wrote a pamphlet on the subject.5 In July he was duly listed ‘Opposition’, having on 12 June voted in the majority for the prosecution of Melville by the attorney general and on 14 June insisted on a bill of indemnity in the debate on Pitt’s dealings with Boyd and Benfield. It was at this unpropitious moment that Dillon’s father again pressed for a British peerage, a claim conveyed to Pitt by Canning at Dillon’s request and ignored.6
Dillon voted against the Grenville ministry over Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806, and could not have been satisfied with Fox’s evasive answer to his question in the House as to the prospects for Catholic claims, 11 Mar. In May he was listed as not supporting ministers ‘at present’. After the election, he was still regarded as hostile, though given the command of a regiment raised by his father and accepted by government. He was absent in April 1807 from the discussion of the dismissal of ministers over the Catholic question. Yet the Portland ministry regarded him as hostile to them; and rightly so, for he voted with opposition on the address and Whitbread’s state of the nation motion, 26 June and 6 July 1807, seconded Lord Cochrane’s motion of 10 July, deplored the Irish tithe system, 15 July, and was also hostile in debate on the Irish questions of 4, 7 and 13 Aug. Lord Sligo now described him as ‘bottle washer to Sir Francis Burdett’.7 By 1808 he was listed ‘in opposition, but has not attended lately’. He re-emerged in opposition on the Scheldt question, 23 Feb. 1810, in which year the Whigs were ‘hopeful’ of him, and he voted with them against the adjournment on the King’s illness, 29 Nov. On 31 May 1811 he voted for Catholic relief and was in the minority on the address, 7 Jan. 1812. That session he approved the Peninsular war but deplored the neglect of Ireland and the Prince Regent’s desertion of the Catholic cause. Robert Ward* reported that Dillon was ‘red hot upon it, said he would not expatriate himself but stick by the soil of Ireland, and hoped his father would not accept the earldom of Lichfield, expected to be offered him’. He was in the minorities on Turton’s motion, 27 Feb., the orders in council, 3 Mar., and Col. McMahon’s appointment, 14 Apr. He spoke in favour of the gradual abolition of corporal punishment in the army, 6 Mar., of Maynooth College, 9 Mar., of the subsidy to Portugal against a fellow oppositionist Fremantle, 16 Mar., presented a Catholic petition from Mayo, 7 Apr., and spoke and voted for Catholic claims, 24 Apr.8 He also voted for Irish tithe reform, 23 June. He was in the opposition majorities on sinecures, 4 May, and in favour of Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger government, 21 May.
In the Parliament of 1812 he voted in support of Burdett’s Regency motion, 23 Feb. 1813, and of Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813, before succeeding to his father’s title in November. Latterly he lived in Italy in financial distress, but was characterized as ‘a complete master of Irish politics’. He was evidently ‘a gentlemanly man, handsome, a great talker’, who never allowed his interlocutor to get in a word edgeways. Dillon, who also wrote A discourse upon the theory of legitimate government (1817), a Commentary on the policy of nations, a Commentary on the military establishments and defence of the British Empire (1812) and published an edition of Aelian’s Tactics (1814), as well as novels and poetry, died 24 July 1832.9
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. PRO 30/8/162, f. 70; 326, ff. 36, 151, 182, 240; 331, ff. 14, 229, 231.
- 2. Sidmouth mss, Abbot to Addington, 22 Oct. 1801; NLI (Pakenham Mahon) mss 10100, Hartland to Wyatt [8-12 Mar. 1808.]
- 3. Add. 35781, f. 38; 35782, f. 101.
- 4. PRO 30/29/8/2, f. 226; Add. 35735, f. 255; 35766, f. 321; 35782, f. 61; 38833, f. 149.
- 5. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3009; Letter to the noblemen and gentlemen who composed the deputation from the Catholics of Ireland, on the subject of their mission (1805).
- 6. PRO 30/8/120, f. 240 and Dacres Adams mss 6/106.
- 7. Wellington mss, Sligo to Wellesley, 17 July .
- 8. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 425, 434, 465.
- 9. Gent Mag. (1832), ii. 175; BL cat. (Dillon).