NORTH, George Augustus (1757-1802), of Wroxton Abbey, nr. Banbury, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. 11 Sept. 1757, 1st s. of Frederick North*, 2nd Earl of Guilford, and bro. of Hon. Frederick North*. educ. Eton 1766-74; Trinity, Oxf. 1774-7. m. (1) 24 Sept. 1785, Lady Maria Frances Mary Hobart (d. 23 Apr. 1794), da. of George Hobart†, 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire, 3s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 28 Feb. 1796, Susannah, da. and coh. of Thomas Coutts, banker, of Westminster, 1s. d.v.p. 2da. Styled Lord North 4 Aug. 1790-5 Aug. 1792; suc. fa. as 3rd Earl of Guilford 5 Aug. 1792.
Comptroller of the Queen’s household 1781-4; under-sec. of state for Home affairs Apr.-Dec. 1783.
Lt.-col. commdt. Cinque port vols. 1779; capt. Deal Castle 1790-d.
North was very much his father’s son, easy-going, dissipated, frank and humorous and completely over-shadowed by him until 1790. He joined the Whig Club, 17 Jan. 1785. His previous part in bringing about the Fox-North coalition, if a small one, was not forgotten by George III, whose benevolence towards the family was pronounced and who thought that his former prime minister’s son should hold better opinions. When rumours of a dissolution started in 1789, he discovered that his grandfather was unwilling to advance £3,000 for his re-election at Wootton Bassett. Though prepared to purchase a seat, he preferred ‘an annuity’ to a lump sum. There was a possibility of his contesting Dover, but he came in for Petersfield on the Jolliffe interest, soon afterwards succeeding his father to the family seat at Banbury.1
North, a ‘powerful but not an elegant speaker’, resumed opposition on 13 Dec. 1790, when he criticized the convention with Spain. On 12 Apr. 1791 he made what Fox called an ‘incomparably good’ speech critical of the government’s bellicose stand against Russia. The likeness to his father’s debating manner was remarked upon.2 On 18 Apr. he voted for the abolition of the slave trade, but he was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question that month. He again opposed the Russian armament on 20 Feb. 1792 and voted against it on 1 Mar. He attempted to deflect criticism of the managers of Warren Hastings’s impeachment, 5 Apr. 1792: he had acted as their teller in the division of 14 Feb. 1791 and did so again that day. But he refused to support parliamentary reform, 30 Apr. 1792, preferring ‘real and practical happiness’ to the visions of the Friends of the People. He also objected to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, 11 May, though he had no objection to repealing outmoded legislation against blasphemy which penalized Unitarians and other dissenters. It was mentioned to ministers that he thought the proclamation against sedition ‘too personally hostile’ to the Whigs, but on 25 May he approved the proclamation in the House, regretting only that he differed from his friends: ‘they knew him too well to expect any unkindness or harsh contribution from him’. He was nevertheless regarded as a potential recruit to administration and in July 1792 declined the lure of the government of India. Soon afterwards he succeeded to the title. According to his brother-in-law, he was not averse to office and seemed to wish to be a secretary of state; but by December 1792 it was clear that he was loath to leave Fox; nor would he lead a group of his own. If he could not stomach reform, he nevertheless ‘disapproved of the war’. In December 1793 Pitt noted that all the Norths except for him were perfectly orthodox in their politics. Subsequently he sometimes led for opposition in the Lords. He disliked the Whig secession of 1797, but once it was resolved, vowed that he would never set foot in Parliament again: Lord Holland, who reported this, added that he went back on it only once. Had the Whigs come to power, he was expected to be viceroy of Ireland, and when Addington became premier his dislike of Catholic relief was thought a possible passport to office, but it was too late.3
He died 20 Apr. 1802, after a lingering illness brought on by a spinal injury sustained during his courtship of his second wife, who brought him a bill of sight for £150,000, but no surviving son and heir.4
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Holland, Mems. Whig Party, i. 86-7; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 388; Ginter, Whig Organization, 50, 53, 140, 206.
- 2. Parl. Portraits (1795), ii. 42; Add. 47570, f. 183; Senator, iv. 177.
- 3. Minto, ii. 26; Add. 33629, f. 4; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 469, 472, 494; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 357; Glenbervie Jnls. 53, 64; Grey mss, Grey to Bigge, 15 June 1797; The Times, 22 Mar. 1798; Holland, loc. cit.
- 4. Gent. Mag. (1802), i. 381, 468; Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xii. 147.