BYNG, George (?1735-89), of Wrotham Park, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. ?1735, 1st s. of Hon. Robert Byng, 3rd s. of George, 1st Visct. Torrington, by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Jonathan Forward. educ. Westminster Mar. 1743, aged 7. m. 5 Mar. 1761, Anne, da. of William Conolly, M.P., of Castletown, co. Kildare, sis. of Thomas Conolly, 4s. 3da. suc. fa. 1740.
Ensign 24 Ft. 1753, lt. 1756; capt. 83 Ft. 1758; capt. 24 Ft. 1760; maj. commandant 99 Ft. 1761; seems to have left the army in 1773.
Byng was closely connected with the Duke of Portland, and in 1763 unsuccessfully contested Wigan on his interest. In 1765 Byng and Beaumont Hotham, having cultivated the borough on Portland’s behalf, concluded an agreement with Simon Luttrell and Sir Fletcher Norton, and were returned in 1768 after a contest with a local man.
Wraxall1 describes Byng as ‘a man of very honourable and upright intentions, but of an ardent temper, very limited talents, and devoted to the Rockingham party’. In Parliament he was one of the most active and dedicated members of the Rockingham group; a frequent speaker, he became an energetic and forceful party manager and ‘whip’—‘muster master-general of the Opposition’ was Wraxall’s description. The Public Ledger wrote of him in 1779: ‘An honest sanguine oppositionist ... who devotes his whole thought to politics, and the House of Commons. On late days he counts the House and is generally appointed a teller on the side of the minority.’ And Byng himself told the House on one occasion that ‘he took shame to himself for having been one hour absent from his duty’. His speeches, ranging over many different topics, inevitably follow the usual Opposition line over the main political events, violently opposing the American war, and pressing for economical reform. Byng was particularly concerned with the need for tighter control of public expenditure; he deplored ‘the careless manner in which supplies were usually granted’, declaring, 9 Nov. 1780, that ‘the indifference with which the House was treated by ministers, in points that peculiarly fell within the province of Parliament was astonishing: he heartily wished to see the good old custom of our ancestors revived, and that the House of Commons should do its duty, and insist on a redress of grievances previous to their voting a supply’. In a debate on resolutions of the committee of supply, 20 Feb. 1781, he complained that ‘the noise and inattention in the House arose in proportion to the largeness of the sum voted’. He himself examined minutely the conditions of various government loans, and on 12 Mar. 1781 claimed that the loan for the present year ‘had been managed by the minister in a way so suspicious and alarming that it merited the more serious consideration of the House’, and he demanded an inquiry, pledging himself to prove ‘the most profligate partiality’ in drawing up the list of subscribers.2
In 1779 Byng, encouraged by a large number of Middlesex electors, wished to stand for the county at the by-election following the death of John Glynn. But when he applied for permission to vacate his seat, it was refused by North, who had already granted the Chiltern Hundreds to another member of the Opposition, George Forster Tufnell. Byng, while angry at the refusal, and confident that he would have been elected, was glad to avoid a contest, for he wrote to Portland, 11 Oct. 1779:3 ‘I dare not embark on a contest, my poverty will compel me to desist.’ At a county meeting on 13 Oct. ‘an amazing majority’ voted for Byng’s candidature and a deputation was sent to North, asking him to vacate Byng’s seat.4 North refused, but Tufnell withdrew and Byng’s chief supporter, Thomas Wood, was returned. At the general election of 1780 Byng was returned without a contest.
On the formation of the Rockingham Administration Byng, wrote the Gentleman’s Magazine subsequently, ‘took nothing to himself’ although ‘Mr. Byng’s fortune was not in a very affluent condition at that time’.5 On 18 Dec. 1782, during a debate on the peace provision, Byng ‘spoke with great feeling of the division which had taken place between old and dear friends’, then went on to attack the new ministry, who, he declared, had ‘delivered themselves to vassalage and tuition’.6 He was teller in the division against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; he spoke and voted for Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals, 7 May 1783, though he did not consider they went far enough;7 and voted for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. Byng contested Middlesex at the general election of 1784 as a follower of Fox, but was defeated.
He died 27 Oct. 1789.