FETHERSTON, alias FETHERSTON HAUGH, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt. (1759-1819), of Ardagh, co. Longford.
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Family and Education
b. 1759, 1st s. of Sir Ralph Fetherston, 1st Bt., MP [I], of Ardagh by 2nd w. Sarah, da. of Godfrey Wills of Willsgrove, co. Roscommon. educ. Trinity, Dublin 7 June 1777, aged 18. m. 9 June 1782, Catherine, da. of George Boleyn Whitney of New Pass, co. Westmeath, 3s. 6da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 3 June 1780.
MP [I] 1783-90, 1796-1800.
Sheriff, co. Longford 1781-2; trustee, linen board [I] 1815; commdt. Longford vol. inf.
Fetherston’s family were one of the Irish branches of the Sussex family of Fetherstonhaugh and had an estate worth about £7,000 p.a. in county Longford. His father, best remembered as the model for Mr Hardcastle in Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, was Member for the county and for St. Johnstown. Fetherston entered the Irish parliament for the latter, Lord Granard’s borough, but in 1796 came in for the county on the leading interest of Lord Oxmantown. He was inclined to support the Union, but opposed it in deference to Oxmantown’s and county opinion, a step the viceroy found ‘very unpleasant’.1
At Westminster, Fetherston, frequently described as Oxmantown’s Member, could be counted on to give a silent support to government, from whom he hoped for provision, being the owner of the lands at Ballinamuck where the French were defeated, ‘and his estate as he says suffered much’.2 On 27 Nov. 1801, on his return to Ireland from Parliament, he reminded the chief secretary of his own and of Oxmantown’s application on his behalf in June for provision for his family of ten, that his wife was ‘but indifferently provided for’ and that a pension settled on her would better enable him to attend Parliament, the expense of which was ‘very heavy’ on his property.3 The response was ‘goodwill—but no present means’ and Fetherston declined firstly a junior clerkship at the Treasury for which he was not qualified, and secondly a passage to India (‘particularly fatal to my family’) for his son in January 1802, but expressed a wish not to be overlooked in future.4
Subsequently Fetherston was not a regular attender. He was in Ireland in March 1803 and, while listed a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry in December 1804, he gave no positive answer as to attendance, ‘but will in all probability attend’.5 He came over to vote against the Catholic claims, 14 May 1805, but later that month returned home. Chief Secretary Nepean promised him a pension of £800 p.a. for three of his daughters, a blunder which led to recriminations in the autumn of 1805 when Fetherston pressed for its fulfilment, as Nepean had also promised a pension to Isaac Corry* which engrossed the Irish pension allowance. Fetherston had to wait, and although Chief Secretary Long admitted that Fetherston’s plea of poverty as an excuse for non-attendance was justified, and tried to get him £400 p.a., he had to be content with £300 p.a.6
Fetherston’s patron being promoted to the earldom of Rosse by the Grenville ministry in 1806, he supported them. Their chief secretary reported, 11 June 1806, that he believed Fetherston would ‘give his attendance for the rest of the session’ and so he did.7 He received government support at the ensuing election, but was in Ireland when the ministry fell and summoned over to support their successors late in April 1807. The Castle imagined that he might withdraw at the ensuing election. Fetherston not only did not do so, but on 9 July 1807 claimed an addition of £500 p.a. to his family’s pension to make it up to the £800 originally promised, his reward for 24 years’ service to government. Chief Secretary Wellesley could not admit the claim, nor could his predecessor Long, but it transpired that Nepean, when cornered about his promise, said that ‘it should be given in meal if not in malt’. By December 1807 Fetherston conceded that he would waive the additional £500 p.a. if made a commissioner of revenue, for which he claimed the Duke of Portland’s former promise, in which case he would make way for his son in Parliament. In February 1808 he applied for an office for his son, no longer available. He wanted a place worth £500 or £600 p.a. for him or something of greater value for himself, for which he would relinquish his seat in Parliament, where he was reported to attend well in support of government, though in October and December 1808 this was thought to be conditional on his patron’s becoming a representative peer. The Castle toyed with the idea of making his son accountant general of the post office, March 1809, but rejected it.8
Fetherston was in the government majorities of 30 Mar. 1810 on the Scheldt inquiry and 16 Apr. against the release of Gale Jones the radical. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May, and against the Catholic claims, 1 June 1810. He was in Ireland during the Regency debates. On 22 June 1812, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813 he voted against Catholic relief. He had served on the Weymouth election committee in February and arrived in town just in time for the last Catholic division.9 In August 1814 Chief Secretary Peel, not being able to provide for him after a previous assurance, asked the premier to do something for Fetherston’s son, as Sir Thomas was ‘a most steady friend and constant attendant’, and in May 1815 an East Indian writership was forthcoming for him.10 On 14 Apr. 1815 he voted with government on the civil list and on 3 July on the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment. Although on 19 Jan. 1816 he informed Peel that indifferent health and ‘not being able to discharge my last year’s expenses yet’ kept him from Parliament, he was in the government majority on the army estimates on 6 and 8 Mar. and in the government minority on the property tax, 18 Mar. Peel informed the viceroy that month that Fetherston was ‘remaining at his post’, but ‘wants a clerkship’, while in May Peel was appealing to Lord Melville for military promotion for Fetherston’s son John.11 He voted against Catholic claims on 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817, though he had again warned Peel, 28 Dec. 1816, that ‘very indifferent’ health and financial distress would keep him away.12 This appears to have been the case latterly. His constant applications were never rebuked, thanks doubtless to the reliability of his politics, the relative modesty of his claims and the dignity of his demeanour. He died 19 July 1819.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 176, 182, 183; Corresp. Rt. Hon. J. Beresford, ii. 234.
- 2. PRO 30/9/13, pt. 2.
- 3. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 1/5.
- 4. Ibid. Fetherston to Abbot, 13, 20 Jan. 1802; Add. 35781, f. 96.
- 5. Add. 35754, f. 296.
- 6. Add. 35706, f. 272; 35787, f. 106; PRO 30/8/328, f. 267.
- 7. NLS mss 12910, p. 183; Wellington mss, Ross to Wellesley, 4 May 1807.
- 8. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 18, 19, 477, 515; Wellington mss, Fetherston to Wellesley, 9 July, 18 Nov. 1807 and enc., Wellesley to Fetherson, 11 Feb. 1808; NLI, Richmond mss 18b, Wellesley to Richmond, 18 Dec. 1807; 60/267.
- 9. Richmond mss 64/727a; Add. 40225, f. 107; 40227, f. 88.
- 10. Add. 38195, f. 22; 40288, f. 299.
- 11. Add. 40251, f. 252; 40290, f. 130; 40291, f. 26.
- 12. Add. 40261, f. 363.