VANSITTART, George (1745-1825), of Bisham Abbey, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Sept. 1745, 6th s. of Arthur Vansittart of Shottesbrook, and bro. of Arthur and Henry Vansittart. educ. Reading sch.1 m. 24 Oct. 1767, in Madras, his distant cos. Sarah, da. of Rev. Sir James Stonhouse, 7th and 10th Bt., 5s. 3da.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1761; factor and resident at Midnapore 1767; junior merchant 1769; senior merchant 1772; 14th in council (Fort William) 1773; member of Board of Trade, Bengal 1774; ret. 1776.
Vansittart returned in 1776 from India reputed to be worth £150,000. About 1780, he settled at Bisham Abbey: of which he wrote, ‘I said at first I would not live in it if it was given me, and now I find it as comfortable a habitation as any in the kingdom.’2
In 1784 Vansittart successfully contested Berkshire. He explained his reasons in a letter of 13 May to his close friend, Warren Hastings: ‘Being perfectly happy with the private life of a country gentleman, I had no thought of engaging in politics, but the dangerous measures of Mr. Fox and his associate Lord North induced me to take a part.’3
In the House, Vansittart spoke mainly on Indian affairs. He supported Pitt’s India bill, with one reservation:
I am very well satisfied with every part of it except those articles which require all persons from India to deliver upon oath an account of their fortunes ... This part I opposed as ineffectual and unjust ... although many gentlemen and even Mr. Grenville (one of the Treasury Bench) joined with me in disapproving it, yet we could not get it altered.4
He spoke several times in the debates relating to Warren Hastings. His defence of Captain Williams, attacked for executing Mustapha Cawn, was condemned by Fox, 15 Mar. 1790, as one that ‘no Member, but a man polluted by residence in India, would have thought of’.5 Vansittart’s name was put forward for Hastings’s successor as governor-general by one party among the East India directors. Although when he left India he had hoped to return as governor-general, he professed himself not anxious for the post; but wrote to Hastings on 4 Dec. 1784 that he ‘could not refuse a station of such importance ... I am perfectly indifferent whether the appointment be given to Leycester or to me, but I wish it may be to one of us, because I know you will find me ... a friend disposed to support your measures and render every justice to your administration.’6
Apart from Indian questions, Vansittart’s reported speeches are few. He was interested in county election bills, and supported that of 1789 in the belief that it would clear up uncertainties in Powys’s Act, and ‘define the principle of decision for the future’.7 He voted against Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 May 1786; but returned to Pitt’s support in the divisions on the Regency, 1788-9. Thereafter, he did not play a very conspicuous parliamentary role.
He died 31 Jan. 1825.