WROTTESLEY, John (1744-87), of Wrottesley Hall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Dec. 1744, o.s. of Sir Richard Wrottesley, 7th Bt., M.P., by Mary, da. of John, 1st Earl Gower. educ. Westminster. m. 7 June 1770, Hon. Frances Courtenay da. of William, 1st Visct. Courtenay, 5s. 5da. suc. fa. as 8th Bt. 20 July 1769.
Ensign 2 Ft. Gds. 1761; capt. 85 Ft. 1762; capt. 1 Ft. Gds. and lt.-col. 1770; col. army 1779; maj.-gen. 1782; col. 45 Ft. 1784- d.
Wrottesley’s uncle, Lord Gower, returned him for Newcastle-under-Lyme at the general election of 1768; and it was as the Gower candidate that he represented the county. His early connexions were with court and Administration: he had been equerry to the Duke of York 1766-7; his uncle Gower was lord president 1767-79; and in 1769 his sister married the Duke of Grafton, then first lord of the Treasury. The only vote Wrottesley is known to have given against Administration, 1768-1774, was on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, when he was classified in the King’s list as a ‘friend’. Even on Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774, he voted with Administration. Twelve speeches by him are reported for this period, none of much consequence.
From 1775 to 1778 he served with his regiment in America. His first speech in Parliament after his return was on 26 Nov. 1778, during the debate on the Address. Referring to the King’s Speech
[he] asked if the House was called upon for unanimity against France? If it was for a war with America, he could not give his approbation to it. All that could be done, he said, had been done. If 50,000 Russians were sent, they could do nothing. He thought New York, Rhode Island, and Halifax should be garrisoned, and the rest of the army brought away.
On 16 Dec. he spoke again, ‘said he was by no means for withdrawing the fleet and army from America, but ... contended we were not able to carry on the war there offensively’. He criticized the strategy of the war: ‘our posts were too many, our troops too much detached on various services to be timely collected for any effective operations ... the chain of communication was too far extended’. And on his own position:
He said it was imputed to him as a crime that he had joined Opposition because he had voted against the Address ... He declared he had for nine years voted uniformly with Administration because he thought they acted right; that whenever he thought so again he should again give them his support: but while he thought them not entitled to it he should certainly oppose them.
He did not vote with Opposition on Coke’s motion of censure against the conciliatory mission, 4 Dec. 1778 (no list of the majority has survived); was classed by Robinson as ‘pro, absent’ on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779; and voted with Administration on the motion of censure against the Admiralty, 3 Mar. 1779. But on 6 Dec. 1779 he was ‘remarkably severe and pointed on the conduct of ministers respecting the American war’.
He said he was no party man, nor had any predilection for either side of the House ... A change of measures was now become absolutely necessary. America was lost by their incapacity and misconduct, their obstinacy and their blindness.1
He was equally critical of the Administration’s Irish policy, and warned them against repeating the mistakes they had made in America.
Wrottesley voted with Opposition on the motion for an account of pensions, 21 Feb. 1780. But he seems to have had no liking for Burke’s plan of economical reform: he does not appear in the two recorded divisions on the bill, and on 20 Mar. spoke against ‘meddling or interfering with the management of any part of the King’s Household’.2 He voted for Dunning’s motion on the influence of the Crown, 26 Apr. Still, Robinson in his electoral survey, compiled in July, classed Wrottesley as a Government supporter.
He voted against Lowther’s motion to end the war, 12 Dec. 1781; and defended himself against the charge of inconsistency ‘by saying that he conceived that motion involved a declaration to withdraw all our forces from the continent, than which he could not apprehend any measure more destructive to this country’.3 But in February 1782 he voted for Conway’s motions against the war, and on 15 Mar. f