ROCHFORT, Gustavus Hume (c.1750-1824), of Rochfort, co. Westmeath.
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Family and Education
b. c.1750, o. s. of George Rochfort. MP [I], of Rochfort by Alice, da. of Sir Gustavus Hume, 3rd Bt., MP [I], of Castle Hume, co. Fermanagh. m. July 1779, Frances, da. of John Bloomfield of Redwood, King’s Co., 7s. 5da. suc. fa. 1786.
MP [I] 1798-1800.
Sheriff, co. Westmeath 1796-7; gov. 1815-d.
Capt. commdt. Moyarshell yeomanry 1796.
‘Gusty’ Rochfort sat for the county in the Irish parliament, as the Rochforts had done for a century past, under the aegis of the head of their family, the Earl of Belvidere, the 2nd Earl being also his brother-in-law. The bane of his life was his failure to secure his claim to the estate of his maternal grandfather, rejected by the Irish House of Lords in 1782, when, as he subsequently alleged, he was the most conspicuous victim of the patriotic veto of the Irish parliament against appeals to the English judiciary, and lost property worth about £16,000 a year. This loss was exacerbated by his having a large family to provide for and he expected government to make amends to him for it, as a corollary to his support, by securing the promotion of his sons in their professions.1
Rochfort claimed to have supported government except on the question of the Union when on 4 Oct. 1801 he reiterated an application for military promotion for one of his seven sons, adding that he had never received ‘any favour whatever’ for himself, family or friends and that Lord Camden had previously mentioned his wishes to Castlereagh.2 He attended again that session, in January 1802 applied to be an Irish privy councillor and in August 1802 and February 1803 a trustee of the linen board, neither of which requests was granted.3 In November 1802 the chief secretary had taken pity on him and allowed him to save the expense of a journey to Parliament, but in March 1803 he was, though in England, absent from the division on the Prince of Wales’s debts.4 Meanwhile he pressed for a place for his eldest son and a revenue place or a cadetship for another.5 It seems that Rochfort was amenable to the political lead of John Foster*, with whom he was connected, and he was certainly expected to be swayed by him in the spring of 1804 when, after voting with the minority for Pitt’s defence motion, 25 Apr., he went on to support Pitt’s second ministry. By 2 June, the viceroy was informed, Rochfort had made his terms, not specified, with Pitt. He adhered to the government minority on the censure against Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, and on 14 May voted against Catholic claims. He asked on 23 July to be a trustee of the linen board, with an office compatible with the bar for his eldest son and a place in the revenue department for his fifth son. On repeating the request, 10 Sept., he received a clerkship in the excise for the latter worth £15 per annum, though he evidently wished for places worth £800 and £300 or £400 respectively.6
In the spring of 1806 the Grenville ministry found Rochfort prepared to support them, although they knew he expected something to be done for his sons, and bearing in mind that he might sway his colleague Smyth and his son-in-law Mervyn Archdall II*, they were prepared to return the compliment at the election that autumn; for although Rochfort like his colleague Smyth had ‘hitherto partially supported us’, as the viceroy put it, he seemed ‘disposed to do so more decisively for the future’. The premier’s brother, the Marquess of Buckingham, was less confident and thought that despite Rochfort’s assurances of his and his colleague’s ‘friendly disposition’ towards government, ‘Foster will always have Rochfort’. Rochfort himself subsequently claimed that although the Whigs had courted him both in 1804 and in 1806, he had taken his stand ‘upon feeling and honour’, being swayed by his ‘attachment to Mr Pitt’s administration’.7
Although Rochfort was always hostile to Catholic relief, his conduct in April 1807 on the dismissal of the Grenville ministry was at first uncertain. By one account he abstained on Brand’s motion and voted against the Portland ministry on Lyttelton’s; by another he voted with ministers, at least on Brand’s motion. He soon overcame whatever scruples he may have had by pouring out his woes to Spencer Perceval, who could not admit government liability for the events of 1782, but evidently gave assurances sufficient to obtain Rochfort’s support for ministers. After reminding the chief secretary, 29 Oct. 1807, and Perceval himself, 6 Dec., Rochfort was placated with the office of accountant-general at the Dublin post office (£500 p.a.) for his eldest son, the place of joint pratique master (£250 p.a.) for his fourth son, and soon afterwards another son was made a lottery commissioner (£280 p.a.).8
This secured Rochfort’s allegiance, but a year later his eldest son was found unequal to the post office and was relieved of it, dying soon afterwards uncompensated. Then in 1810 his son John the lottery commissioner fell a victim to Sir (Simon) John Newport’s* campaign for economical reform, and died, also uncompensated, in 1812.9 The chief secretary regretted in March 1810 that a living could not be found for Rochfort’s clerical son, as Rochfort had ‘behaved extremely well’, in fact ‘better ... than anybody’, in his attendance on the Scheldt question. He voted against radical agitation, 16 Apr., against the abolition of sinecures, 17 May, and against parliamentary reform, 21 May, and Catholic relief, 1 June. On the Regency debates in December 1810 and January 1811, Rochfort, while pressing government on behalf of all his sons, did not attend, though the Castle now had a living for his son in the Church as bait ‘if Gusty arrives, and behaves well’. He arrived by 15 Jan. and was ‘very staunch’, though he failed to persuade his son-in-law Mervyn Archdall not to join opposition on the division of 21 Jan. A week later the chief secretary wrote, ‘Poor Gusty was and is as staunch as possible, and always voted with us. He was very much distressed about Archdall’s going against us, and tried to keep him away.’10 On 7 Feb. and 4 May 1812 Rochfort was in the government minority against sinecure reform and again on 21 May against pressure for a stronger administration, while on 22 June he was in the minority against Catholic relief.
At the commencement of the Parliament of 1812, Rochfort complained to the chief secretary about government neglect of his surviving sons’ claims: their emoluments amounted to £600 p.a. compared with £1,100 p.a. in 1808, so government were ‘considerably in arrears of favours’. He was in his place to vote against Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813, and soon received promotion for a son in the army, a cadetship for another and a better living for the clerical son. On 9 May 1814 he spoke against the election expenses bill and on 13 July in eager support of the Irish preservation of the peace bill; he had also put in a word for the Irish firearms bill on 25 May 1813, but he seldom intervened in debate. On 19 May 1814 the chief secretary reported:
Rochfort gave yesterday a happy instance of the eagerness with which the spoils of a defunct possessor of honours and emoluments are sought after in Ireland. Lord Belvidere was a relative, and he asks for his place at the linen board or his privy councillorship.11
Belvidere’s death without issue made Rochfort the ‘present representative’ of the family and on the death of Lord Westmeath soon afterwards he found other county honours to covet, basing his claims on the Rochfort parliamentary roll and his ‘zealous and steady’ support of Pitt’s, Perceval’s and the present administration. He had to be satisfied with a governorship of the county. Meanwhile, his attendance had deteriorated. A lawsuit, complicated by the gout, detained him in Ireland early in 1816 (when he reminded the Castle that he had attended many sessions, often twice in one session) and early in 1817. He appeared in the government divisions of 6 May and 20 June 1816 and 17 and 25 Feb. 1817, as also against Catholic relief, 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817. On the resumption of his claims for his now eldest son Major Gustavus Rochfort, Chief Secretary Peel informed the viceroy: ‘illegible as Rochfort’s letters are I assure you it is much pleasanter to communicate with him by letter than personally’.12
When Peel left Ireland in 1818, he supplied his successor with a memorandum of ‘a hundred and fifty objects with government’ that Rochfort was pressing on each of his sons’ behalf, taken from ‘a letter of remonstrance’ to Lord Liverpool in which Rochfort claimed that he had been neglected since Perceval’s time and robbed of the county honours.13 Despite this, he voted with government on the critical divisions of 29 Mar. and 18 May 1819. He died insatiable, 30 Jan. 1824.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Wellington mss, Rochfort to Perceval (copy), 6 Dec. ; Add. 40219, f. 67.
- 2. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 3/5, Rochfort to Abbot, 4 Oct. 1801; Add. 35781, f. 37; 35783, f. 53.
- 3. PRO 30/9/9, pt. 1/4, 16 Jan. 1802; Add. 35715, f. 68; 35782, f. 30.
- 4. PRO 30/9/15, Wickham to Abbot, 20 Nov. 1802; Add. 35766, f. 321.
- 5. Add. 35782, f. 30; 35783, f. 97; 35785, f. 87; Wickham mss 5/6, Wickham to Rochfort, 20 Dec. 1802.
- 6. Add. 35715, f. 68; 35787, ff. 77, 89, 93; PRO 30/8/328, f. 267; Camden mss C242, Long to Camden, 7 Nov. 1805.
- 7. Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806; Add. 51661, Bedford to Holland, 2 Sept. 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 385, 415; Wellington mss, Rochfort to Wellesley, 8 Jan. 1808.
- 8. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 19; cf. Morning Chron. 13 Apr. (but not 22 June); Dublin Evening Post, 23 Apr. 1807; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 689; Wellington mss, Rochfort to Wellesley, 29 Oct. 1807, 8 Jan. 1808, to Perceval (copy), 6 Dec., Perceval to Wellesley, 15 Dec. 1807, Wellesley to Rochfort, 15 Jan. 1808.
- 9. NLI, Melville mss 55A, f. 333, Rochfort to Saunders Dundas, 4 Oct. 1809; NLI, Richmond mss 73/1676; Add. 40219, f. 20.
- 10. Grey mss, Taylor to Grey, 19 Dec. 1810; Richmond mss 64/725, 727a, 730, 733, 738, 740; 73/1697, 1798.
- 11. Add. 40219, ff. 10, 20, 67; 40281, ff. 61, 71; 40285, f. 132; 40286, f. 182.
- 12. Add. 40190, f. 2; 40219, ff. 69, 75, 83, 85, 131, 133, 134; 40294, f. 171.
- 13. Add. 40297 (Rochfort); 40298, f. 42.