FITZPATRICK, John, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory [I] (1745-1818), of Ampthill, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 2 May 1745, 1st s. of John, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory [I], and bro. of Hon. Richard Fitzpatrick. educ. Westminster c.1754-60; Trinity, Camb. 1760. m. 26 Mar. 1769, Anne, da. of Henry Liddell, 1st Baron Ravensworth, div. w. of Augustus Henry, 3rd Duke of Grafton, 1da. suc. fa. 23 Sept. 1758; cr. Baron Upper Ossory [GB] 9 Aug. 1794.
Ld. lt. Beds. 1771- d.
A friend of Charles Fox and one of the fashionable set, Ossory, according to Horace Walpole, could ‘live with macaronies and be in fashion without folly’, and do ‘everything right and proper so naturally, that both the sensible part of the world and the absurd part think he is just what he ought to be’.1
In 1767, on the death of his cousin Lord Tavistock, he was returned unopposed for Bedfordshire. In Parliament he, like his father, was influenced by his uncle John, 4th Duke of Bedford, and in the autumn of 1767 acted for him during the negotiations with the Grafton ministry.2 But he seems to have been little interested in politics: he was, writes the 3rd Lord Holland, ‘a man of sense, reflection, and prudence, and not much liable to be swayed by party feelings, or much disposed bracchia tendere contra torrentem. He had little ambition, though very desirous, from a dislike of the turmoil, and still more of the expense of elections, to obtain an English peerage.’3 In January 1768, after the Bedfords had entered the Administration, it was rumoured that this ambition was to be realized,4 but nothing more was heard of the matter, nor was he more successful when in August 1770 he applied for the embassy to Spain.
After Grafton’s resignation Ossory continued to support Administration till the outbreak of the American war, though in 1773 he was associated with Rockingham and other leading members of the Opposition in protesting to North about the threatened Irish absentee land tax.5 He continued to hope for a peerage, and on 9 Jan. 1774 asked his uncle Lord Gower to support his request, his ‘only political ambition’.6 At the general election of 1774, though his own seat was safe, Ossory spent large sums in securing the re-election of Robert Henley Ongley, a fellow supporter of Administration. But he had serious misgivings about the Administration’s American measures, and told Gower it was only out of respect for him that he had withheld his criticism, but, he wrote on 5 Nov. 1775: ‘After a great deal of reflection, being perfectly convinced of the fatal consequences of the war (from which I can see no prospect of advantage even if we are the conquerors) I have, I confess, contracted a most ardent wish for pacification, and a desire to concur in measures that might lead to it.’7 And on 16 Nov. he supported Burke’s conciliatory proposals, declaring ‘he disapproved of the dangerous experiment of fomenting civil war and the obstinacy, if not worse, of prosecuting it at so great a risk and at such enormous expense’.8 Thereafter he voted with the Opposition till the fall of North. On 20 Feb. 1776, seconding Fox’s motion for a committee to inquire into the causes of defeat in America, he said ‘he could not perceive how any Member in that House, who was unconnected with the ministry, and at the same time wished success to the American war, could be against it’.9 Apart from this, only one intervention by Ossory was reported before 6 Dec. 1779, when he introduced a motion censuring the ‘shameful inattention and criminal neglect of ministers, who might have in the early stages of the miseries of that kingdom, granted the Irish substantial relief’.10 He voted with Opposition on the measures for economical reform, February-March 1780, but, writes Horace Walpole, when the petitioning counties were sending deputies to a convention in London, Ossory ‘could not be prevailed to send any from Bedfordshire’.11
After the fall of North Ossory supported the Rockingham Administration, and once more applied for a British peerage, but seems to have had a noncommittal reply from his brother-in-law, Lord Shelburne.12 When, on the death of Rockingham in July 1782 Shelburne took office, he wrote to Ossory on the 4th: ‘I am desirous of getting my own Board filled not merely with politicians, but friends, and I shall be happy if you will add to it in the character of a relation.’ After declining, Ossory wrote: ‘I assure you it is not from any political motives, not having had any concert with anybody, or taken any engagement since this event.’13 He seems to have been unwilling to commit himself openly to supporting Shelburne’s Administration. On 15 Sept. he wrote to his sister:14 ‘I wish his Administration exceedingly well but at the same time am free to own that I shall be exceedingly ... disappointed if I don’t find his inclinations the same still [as] they were upon the first change ... You know I am no boaster, but I really think my being pleased or out of humour is of some consequence to Lord Shelburne as a minister.’ In reply Lady Shelburne pressed him to declare his support openly: ‘It will be impossible for him [Shelburne] to urge what you so much wish without the most distinct and avowed previous support—otherwise we shall feel in a very awkward situation.’15 But Ossory’s attitude remained ambiguous. His brother Richard wrote to him after the division on the peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783:16
I am not very sorry your indolence prevailed upon you to stay in the country, as I should have feared your pacific disposition and that general partiality to peace might have inclined you to follow the example of some of your brother country gentlemen ... and to have voted in favour of a ministry you wished to destroy.
On the formation of the Coalition Ossory applied to Fox about his peerage, but was informed that the King had refused to create any. In November he was persuaded by Fox to move the Address, but this was his last reported speech in the House. He voted for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. Ossory was classed as a Foxite in Robinson’s list of January 1784, in Stockdale’s of 19 Mar., and by Adam in May.