FOLEY, Thomas (1716-77), of Stoke Edith, Herefs. and Witley, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Aug. 1716, o.s. of Thomas Foley, M.P., by his 1st w. Hester, da. and h. of Thomas Andrews of London. educ. Westminster 1724-32; Trinity, Camb. 1732. m. 29 Mar. 1740, Hon. Grace Granville, da. and coh. of George, 1st Baron Lansdowne, 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1749; to estates of his cos. Thomas, 2nd Baron Foley, 1766, when the title became extinct; cr. Baron Foley 20 May 1776.
The Foleys had large estates in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and exerted considerable political influence in both counties. Throughout this period they controlled one seat at Droitwich, and for the most part two. In 1754 Thomas Foley was classed by Dupplin as a Tory. In George III’s reign he generally voted with the Whig Opposition.
He is not in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries, nor did he vote against them. In the autumn of 1763 Jenkinson marked him as ‘pro’, but he voted against the Grenville Administration on Wilkes and general warrants (15 Nov. 1763, and 15 and 18 Feb. 1764)—on the last occasion included by Jenkinson in his list of those who were normally friends; and he was classed by Newcastle as a ‘doubtful friend’. He opposed Administration on the cider duty (as did most West country Members), acted once as a teller against them, 10 Feb. 1764, and twice spoke for its repeal, 13 Mar. 1763 and 7 Mar. 1764—his only recorded speeches.1
In July 1765 Rockingham classed Foley as ‘pro’, but he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. This did not prevent Rockingham proposing him for a peerage—he wrote to the King, 5 June 1766:2
Mr. Foley’s hopes are grounded on some expectation that the late Lord Foley had of being created a peer with a higher title than baron and with limitation to the present Mr. Foley.
The present Mr. Foley in point of family estate, and weight is certainly very proper for the honour of peerage.
George III replied that he adhered to his previous ‘intention of not at least for the present increasing the peerage’.
Foley voted against Chatham’s Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767. In 1768 he was returned unopposed for Herefordshire. He voted against Administration over the Middlesex election, 15 Apr. and 8 May 1769, and in 1769 tried to promote a petition in Herefordshire against the seating of Luttrell—he was very friendly with Dowdeswell, the leader of the Rockingham group in the Commons. Foley voted against the Spanish convention, 27 Mar. 1771, and his next recorded vote (on Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774) was also against Administration. Yet Robinson in September 1774 classed him as ‘hopeful’.
In the contested election for Herefordshire in 1774 Foley came out head of the poll. His only other recorded vote was for Wilkes’s motion on the Middlesex election, 22 Feb. 1775. His peerage was included in the batch of ten created in 1776—although during the 28 years he had spent in the Commons he appears in no division list as having voted with the court.
He died 18 Nov. 1777.