HAMILTON, James, 1st Visct. Limerick [I] (c.1691-1758), of Dundalk, co. Louth.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1727 - 1734
22 Apr. 1735 - 1741
28 Jan. 1742 - 1747
1747 - 1754

Family and Education

b. c.1691, 1st s. of James Hamilton of Tollymore, co. Down by Anne, da. of John Mordaunt, 1st Visct. Mordaunt of Avalon, sis. of Charles, Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth. m. 15 Oct. 1728, Lady Henrietta Bentinck, da. of William, 1st Earl of Portland, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. May 1700. cr. Baron Claneboye and Visct. Limerick [I] 13 May 1719; Earl of Clanbrassil [I] 24 Nov. 1756.

Offices Held

M.P. [I] 1715-19.

P.C. [I] 14 Apr. 1746; gov. co. Louth 1756-d.

Biography

Described by Horace Walpole as ‘a pale ill-looking fellow with a bent brow, a whoreson voice and a dead eye of saffron hue ... belonging to Lord Bath [William Pulteney]’,1 Limerick was returned on the Hampden interest for Wendover as an opposition Whig. A member of the gaols committee in 1729, he took an active part on the committee appointed to inquire into the affairs of the Charitable Corporation in 1732, seconding a motion that Sir Robert Sutton had been guilty of promoting the fraudulent practices of the Charitable Corporation, introducing a bill to restrain the directors from leaving the country until the end of the next session of Parliament, and in the following session supporting a motion that Sutton was guilty of frauds and breach of trust. He was active in Irish matters and on the council of the Georgia Society.

In 1734 Limerick was defeated at Wendover, but was seated on a petition ‘notwithstanding the ministry made it their affair’ to oppose him. His petition was supported by the members of the Georgia Society, which he thereafter tried to convert into an instrument of the Opposition. In March 1739 he resigned from the council hoping ‘thereby the trustees would be induced to alter their measures, by which he meant, go over to the minority side.’ On 13 Feb. 1741 he seconded the opposition motion for Walpole’s dismissal.

After Walpole’s fall Limerick, having failed to retain his Wendover seat at the general election, was returned by the Duke of Bedford at a by-election for Tavistock. He was one of the opposition Members who were recommended to the King for seats on the new board of Admiralty but ‘demurred to accept unless more of their party were taken in, which angered the King.’ On 9 Mar. he moved unsuccessfully in the Commons for a secret committee of inquiry into Walpole’s Administration, with the result that next day the King rejected him and the other proposed lords of the Admiralty.2 On 25 Mar. following he successfully renewed his motion for an inquiry, becoming chairman of the secret committee. In July Pulteney rewarded his services by obtaining for his son the reversion of the lucrative sinecure of remembrancer of the Exchequer in Ireland, then held by Lady Limerick’s uncle, Lord Palmerston.3

Till 1746 Limerick supported the Government, though in February 1744 he carried a motion against an increase in the sugar duty proposed by Pelham.4 Listed among the followers of Pulteney, now Lord Bath, he absented himself from the division on the Hanoverian troops in 1746. Soon afterwards he joined the Prince’s party, figuring in lists of persons to receive office on Frederick’s accession as paymaster general or a lord of the Admiralty.

Returned by Lord Carlisle, formerly Lord Morpeth, for Morpeth in 1747, Limerick was classed as Opposition. He spent the next three years in Ireland, from which he emerged to move on 4 Feb. 1751, that the army estimates be reduced from 18,850 men to 15,000. Commenting on his re-appearance Horace Walpole writes:

He had preserved a sort of character from the impossibility of his being dismissed with the rest of his friends, as he has secured the reversion of a large sinecure for life, and, consequently, had less occasion to be intriguing after new preferment. His speeches were reckoned severe, and it was not his fault if they did not answer the character; he meant to wound but his genius did not carry equal edge with his temper.

Except for some speeches on the regency bill of 1751,5