BURGOYNE, John (1723-92), of Hertford Street, Mayfair, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1761 - 1768
29 Nov. 1768 - 4 Aug. 1792

Family and Education

b. 4 Feb. 1723, s. of Capt. John Burgoyne of Sherborne, Warws. by Anna Maria, da. and coh. of Charles Burneston of Hackney, Mdx.1 educ. Westminster 1733-8. m. Lady Charlotte Stanley, da. of Edward Stanley, 11th Earl of Derby, 2da. d.v.p.

Offices Held

Cornet 1 R. Drag. 1744, lt. 1745, capt. 1745, sold out 1751; capt. 11 Drag. 1756; capt.-lt. and lt.-col. 2 Ft. Gds. 1758; lt.-col. commdt. 16 Drag. 1759, brevet col. 1762; col. 16 Drag. 1763-79; gov. Fort William 1769-79; maj.-gen. 1772, lt.-gen. (local rank, America) 1776, lt.-gen. 1777; c.-in-c. Ireland 1782-4; col. 4 Ft. 1782-d.

PC [I] 4 May 1782.


Burgoyne, a founder member of Brooks’s and a personal friend of Fox, had once supported Lord North, but he defected to opposition after his humiliation at Saratoga and subsequent failure to obtain a hearing at Court. He joined the Whig Club, 13 May 1784. Returned again for Preston in 1790 on the interest of his nephew, the 12th Earl of Derby, he voted against government on Oczakov, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, and divided in favour of abolition of the slave trade, 18 Apr. 1791. In the latter month he was also listed favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. On 10 Dec. 1790 he condemned the proposal to augment the army by raising new independent companies as ‘the most ill-judged, viewed in point of armament, and the most lavish in point of economy, of any he had ever known’, arguing that it would have been cheaper to recruit for existing regiments. When the secretary at war replied to these remarks, 28 Mar. 1791, Burgoyne defended them at length and also attacked the sale of commissions as a ‘directly unconstitutional’ scheme which ‘converted the War Office into a broker’s shop’. He welcomed the proposed allowance for the common soldier, 15 Feb. 1792, but complained that subalterns’ pay was often four years in arrears. His motion of for inquiry into arrears—intended, he said, for ‘redress and not accusation’—was opposed by government and defeated by 74 votes to 33.

Burgoyne, whom Walpole described as ‘the most verbose and bombast boaster that ever bore a truncheon’, though he ‘did not want spirit nor knowledge’, died suddenly, 4 Aug. 1792. He had optimistically willed £4,000 to his four children by the actess Susan Caulfield, his mistress since the death of his wife, but his estate yielded virtually nothing after payment of his debts and the children were saved from penury by the generosity of Lord Derby. The elder son, John Fox Burgoyne (1782-1871), achieved distinction as an engineering officer and was created a baronet in 1856.2

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. H. Port


  • 1. Gossip had it that he was really the son of Robert Benson†, 1st Baron Bingley. See Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xxviii. 336; Westminster Abbey Reg. ed. Chester (1876), 331-2, 450. The story is refuted in E. B. de Fonblanque, Life and Corresp. John Burgoyne, 4-8.
  • 2. Walpole, Last Jnls. ii. 402; de Fonblanque, 465.