GROSVENOR, Thomas (1734-95), of Swell Court and Shepton Beauchamp, Som.
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Family and Education
b. Mar. 1734, 2nd s. of Sir Robert Grosvenor, 6th Bt., and bro. of Richard Grosvenor. educ. Westminster 1749-51; Oriel, Oxf. 1751; I. Temple 1750. m. 21 Sept. 1758, Deborah, da. and coh. of Stephen Skynner of Walthamstow, Essex, 4s. 2da.
Thomas Grosvenor was proposed for Chester almost immediately after his father’s death. At first there was some opposition because of his youth and because the other seat was held by his brother, but it came to nothing and Grosvenor was returned without a poll. Like his father and brother he was always classed as a Tory. On 1 Dec. 1762 he voted to postpone taking into consideration the peace preliminaries. This seems to have been of no political significance, for he appears in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace and on 3 Dec. Shelburne assured Bute that Grosvenor ‘speaks very decidedly for you’.1
On 15 Nov. 1763 he voted against Administration over Wilkes, and on 10 Feb. 1764 spoke for the repeal of the cider duty. On 15 Feb. over general warrants, he again voted against Administration. Great efforts were made by the court to win him for the debate of 17 Feb. On 16 Feb. Lord Grosvenor wrote to Grenville:2
Lord Grosvenor ... knows his brother’s intention is to attend the House tomorrow, and as it is his inclination to support Administration whenever he can do it with propriety, hopes he will find sufficient reason in the course of the debate to justify his doing it tomorrow.
Grosvenor again voted with Opposition, but was listed by Jenkinson as a friend who normally supported.
In July 1765 Rockingham classed Grosvenor as ‘doubtful’, and he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. In the divisions on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768, he voted against the court, as did so many other country gentlemen. In five divisions between 1769 to 1771 (four on the Middlesex election and one on the Spanish convention) he voted with Opposition; on the royal marriage bill he was classed by Robinson as ‘doubtful’; by the King on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, as ‘friend’, and again by Robinson on the eve of the general election of 1774 as ‘doubtful’. In short, he was thoroughly independent.
From the beginning of the American troubles he consistently supported North’s policy. He said during the debate on the Boston port bill, 14 Mar. 1774:3 ‘I am of opinion all this trouble proceeds from the repeal of the Stamp Act. We shall I hope be of one mind to agree with this bill.’ From 1775 to 1778, when only minority lists are available, he does not appear in them, and presumably voted with the court; on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he is marked as ‘pro, absent’; and in the five divisions February to April 1780 the only votes he gave were for the abolition of the Board of Trade, 13 Mar., and with the court on the motion against prorogation, 24 Apr. Towards economical reform he took an attitude different from the politicians’ or the country gentlemen’s, and while concerned for economy was not prepared to reduce the dignity and influence of the Crown. On 13 Mar. 1780 (in the only speech he is known to have made during the American war) he welcomed ‘the abolition of useless places’ but protested against ‘the appropriation of the savings to public uses’.4
He did not see any reason why Parliament should proceed without any proof of previous abuse to deprive the Crown of those grants which had been made in lieu of revenues, which the King formerly enjoyed, and which were taken up in consideration of the present civil list establishment.
Even those who opposed his politics respected him. The English Chronicle, a newspaper friendly to the Opposition, having described him in 1781 as ‘a most confirmed and uniform friend to the measures of the present Administration’, continued:
The constancy of his attachment does him honour, whatever judgment may be entertained of the object of it. In the catalogue of his virtues, a warm gratitude towards his constituents, and a sincere interest in their general and individual concerns, may be fairly and truly enumerated.
‘In these times Grosvenor is a man to whom attention should be paid’, wrote Charles Jenkinson in December 1781.5 On 20 Feb. 1782 Grosvenor voted for the censure motion against the Admiralty; but on the three motions against continuing the war (22 Feb., 27 Feb., and 8 Mar.) voted with Administration. On Rous’s no confidence motion of 15 Nov. he paired on the Administration side. Then, on 18 Mar., North wrote to the King:
Mr. Grosvenor to-day in the House of Commons desired me to appoint him an hour to-morrow morning, as he had a matter of importance to communicate to me, and I have since learned from good authority, that it is his intention to represent to me, in his own name, and in those of some other country gentlemen ‘that, being now convinced that the present Administration cannot continue any longer, they are of opinion that vain and ineffectual struggles tend only to public mischief and confusion, and that they shall think it their duty henceforward to desist from opposing what appears to be clearly the sense of the House of Commons’.
Next day Grosvenor saw North and agreed to vote with the court on 20 Mar., but said, North wrote to the King, ‘he would be against us tomorrow if he conceived that we were determined to persevere in the struggle’.6 The defection of Grosvenor and the group he represented finally convinced North that he could no longer retain office.
Grosvenor voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783; and in Robinson’s list of January 1784 was classed as a follower of Pitt. On 26 Jan. he took the chair at a meeting at the St. Alban’s Tavern, ‘of such Members of the House of Commons as wish to promote a union of parties’. Well-meaning and naïve, he seemed to imagine that if only Pitt and Fox could have a full and frank conversation there was no difficulty which given goodwill on both sides could not be overcome. Both Pitt and Fox professed to welcome the idea, but Fox demanded that Pitt should first resign, which Pitt refused to do, and nothing resulted except pious resolutions. On 2 Feb. Grosvenor moved in the House ‘that the present arduous and critical situation of public affairs requires the exertion of a firm, efficient, extended, united Administration’, which passed unanimously. It was followed by another resolution, moved by Thomas Coke, ‘that the continuance of the present ministers in power ... is an obstacle to a firm, efficient, extended and united Administration’, which was carried against Pitt. It is not known how Grosvenor voted on Coke’s resolution, but in Stockdale’s list of the House of Commons, 19 Mar. 1784, he is classed as a supporter of Pitt.
In 1784 Grosvenor was returned head of the poll at Chester. During the next four years four speeches by him are recorded, none of any significance, and no votes. In 1786 he accepted a seat for his son in a Government borough, and in 1788 applied for a peerage. He voted with Pitt over the Regency, and described Pitt’s plan as ‘wise, distinct, discreet, prudent, and loyal’.7
Grosvenor died 12 Feb. 1795.