VERNON, Richard (1726-1800), of Hilton Park, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 18 June 1726, 5th s. of Henry Vernon, M.P., of Hilton, and bro. of Henry Vernon. educ. Grand Tour (Italy and France) c.1743.1 m. 15 Feb. 1759, Lady Evelyn, da. of John Leveson Gower, 1st Earl Gower, wid. of John Fitzpatrick, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory and sis. of the Duchess of Bedford, 3da.
Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. Nov. 1744, lt. and capt. 1747; res. Oct. 1751.
Clerk of quit rents in Ireland May 1759; pension of £500 p.a. in lieu of income of that office Feb. 1761; clerk comptroller of Green Cloth Apr. 1764-July 1765, 1768-79; clerk of Green Cloth 1779-Mar. 1782.
By 1751 Vernon was closely connected with the Duke of Bedford: about that time there is hardly a letter from Rigby to the Duke in which ‘Dick’ is not mentioned. In 1752 Horace Walpole described him (to Mann, 2 Feb.) as ‘a very inoffensive young fellow, who lives in the strongest intimacy with all fashionable young men’; and Rigby as one who ‘must necessarily be in love with somebody’.2
At the general election of 1754 Vernon unsuccessfully contested Camelford on the Bedford interest; but in December was returned for Tavistock by the Duke, who on 28 Jan. 1755 wrote to Charles Hanbury Williams:3 ‘Rigby ... will probably initiate ... his colleague Dick Vernon in those various modes of oratory you have mentioned, yawning, huzzaing, etc.’ Vernon certainly attempted none other—there is no record of his having spoken in the House during the 36 years he sat in it. ‘A jockey and gamester’4 he was prominent on the turf and in society; while his political record is a story of places of profit and dumb votes. In 1757 he became second secretary to the Duke of Bedford, then lord lieutenant of Ireland, and soon after his marriage was given an Irish sinecure. But this seems to have been insufficient: on 30 Nov. 1760 Vernon wrote to the Duke with reference to the forthcoming general election: ‘I am poorer than I thought I was; and have spent at least £1,200 more than I ought this last year’, and it would be imprudent to lay out what remains in the purchase of a parliamentary qualification.5 Bedford obviously promised to do something further for him, and when Lady Ossory heard that the Duke was about to leave his post, she asked him on 15 Feb. 1761 to use his interest ‘in our favour ... our income being so small’. Four days later she thanked him for having obtained this favour (the conversion of the place into a fixed pension) ‘in so handsome a manner’.6
In 1761 Vernon was returned after a contest on the Duke’s interest at Bedford. And next, during the removals of November 1762, Vernon applied to Bedford, then in Paris, to obtain for him some employment;7 Bedford applied to Bute ‘to make a family happy’; and as a result Vernon received a secret service pension of £800 p.a.8 The next step was to convert the pension into office: talked about when Bedford joined the Grenville Administration in September 1763,9 it was achieved, after some troublesome negotiations, when on 18 Apr. 1764 Vernon kissed hands as clerk comptroller of the Green Cloth.10
Vernon left office with Bedford; was listed as an opponent by Rockingham; and voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. During the abortive negotiations of November-December 1766 for the entry of the Bedfords into the Chatham Administration, the Duke stipulated that Vernon should ‘have a proper office, in due time’;11 and in the successful negotiations of November-December 1767 he was in the list of those ‘to be noticed at the time or as soon as could be arranged’.12 Vernon was reinstated at the Board of Green Cloth early in 1768.
At the general election of March 1768 he was re-elected at Bedford after another contest; and in the new Parliament is found voting with the Government in six out of the seven divisions for which lists of their side are extant. In 1774 he was moved to the safer Bedford seat at Okehampton. His attendance in this Parliament is poorer: he was listed as ‘pro, absent’ over the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779; voted with the Government on Keppel, 3 Mar. 1779; but appears in only two of the five crucial divisions, February-April 1780. The Public Ledger wrote about him in 1779: ‘one of the Bedford party, whose main principle he adopts, viz. that of self-interest.’ And the English Chronicle in 1781:
He is ... not distinguished either for splendour or deficiency of talents, but with a perfect mediocrity of intellectual endowments enjoys his place, breeds his horses, contrives matches, which he is said to do with more skill and success than any man on the turf, and gives a silent vote to the minister.
He was paired on the Administration side in the four divisions 20, 22, and 27 Feb. 1782, and 8 Mar., but was absent from the decisive division of 15 Mar. On the 20th, the day North resigned, Robinson, writing to Jenkinson at 6.30 a.m., included Vernon among the ‘pro’s it is hoped may be got to-day’.13
In 1783 Lord Gower drew away from North; and Vernon, who followed his brother-in-law, voted on 18th Feb. for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries; he did not vote on Fox’s East India bill; but next was listed by all the political managers as an adherent of Pitt; and presumably for that reason moved in 1784 from a Bedford to a Gower borough. He apparently was not given office—perhaps he did not care for it any longer: ‘by means of betting and breeding horses Vernon is stated to have converted “a slender patrimony of £3,000 into a fortune of £100,000 before quitting the turf as an owner”.’14 He voted with Pitt during the Regency crisis; and withdrew from the House at the end of that Parliament.
He died 16 Sept. 1800.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Mann to Walpole, 10 Mar. 1752.
- 2. To Bedford, 3 Oct. 1752, Bedford mss 28, f. 68.
- 3. Bedford Corresp. ii. 156.
- 4. Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, i. 316; iii. 86.
- 5. Bedford mss 42, f. 234.
- 6. Ibid 43, ff. 114, 122, 186; T14/14/7; Cal. Home Office Pprs. 1760-5, p. 135.
- 7. Bedford mss 46, f. 104.
- 8. Bedford mss 47, ff. 10, 42; Jenkinson’s list of secret service pensions, Royal archives, Windsor.
- 9. Bedford Corresp. iii. 244.
- 10. Grenville to Bedford 14, 17 Apr., Grenville letter bk.; Bedford to Grenville, 17 Apr., Grenville mss (JM).
- 11. Fortescue, i. 419; Bedford mss 44, f. 132.
- 12. Grafton, Autobiog. 182.
- 13. Fortescue, v. 403.
- 14. DNB.