COLTHURST, Sir Nicholas Conway, 4th Bt. (1789-1829), of Ardrum, co. Cork.
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Family and Education
b. Jan. 1789, o.s. of Sir Nicholas Colthurst, 3rd Bt., MP [I], by Harriet, da. of David Latouche, MP [I]. educ. Eton 1799-1808; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1808. m. 11 Nov. 1819, his cos. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Col. George Vesey, MP [I], of Lucan, co. Dublin, 4s. 1da. suc. fa. as 4th Bt. July 1795.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1817.
Col. R. Cork city militia 1819-d.
The Colthurst family were extensive landowners in county Cork and Sir Nicholas’s father and grandfather had both represented Cork constituencies in the Irish parliament. He was returned for the city largely as a result of government support and was an independent supporter of administration throughout his parliamentary career. He had defeated a staunch pro-Catholic Member, Hely Hutchinson, and as the Catholic interest at Cork was so significant, their claims were always his major problem. He had privately assured ministers that he opposed Catholic relief, but felt obliged to appear well disposed to the measure. On the hustings, he pointed out that in signing a protestant petition urging consideration of the issue, he was supporting its discussion but not necessarily committing himself to any measure that might arise out of it. In his maiden speech, 26 Feb. 1813, he reiterated this view. Even so, ministers were surprised; Peel, the chief secretary, informed the lord lieutenant that he thought Colthurst was pledged to oppose Catholic relief: ‘I know that his most intimate friends considered that he had made up his mind to vote against it’. The lord lieutenant was confident that Colthurst would ultimately ‘be against everything in favour of the Catholics’.1 Colthurst was not in the division on the Catholic bill, 24 May, after voting for it on 13 May, but he spoke and voted for further consideration of the question in 1815 and 1816 and voted for it in 1817 and 1819. He died before it was decided.
Other questions also engaged Colthurst’s attention at Westminster. He was in the minority against the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb. 1813, supported the Irish preservation of the peace bill, 8 July 1814, and several times spoke in favour of protection during the Corn Law debates, 1814-15. In 1815 he joined Grillion’s Club. On 17 June 1816 he was in the opposition majority on a clause of the public revenues bill and on 11 Feb. 1817 voted for the reception of a petition for parliamentary reform. He presented one from Cork, though not himself in agreement with its prayer, 20 May. He spoke against Newport’s motion on the state of Ireland, 19 June 1817, as it implied a want of confidence in government which he did not feel. He favoured the repeal of the Irish window tax, 21 Apr. 1818, though he did not then vote for it: on 5 May 1819 he did so. He supported the reform of Irish local government and drew attention to his constituents’ problems, promoting the Cork harbour bill in June 1819. All in all, he was a thoughtful and active Member, noticeably modest in his claims on government: as Peel put it in 1817: ‘I believe there is not a man in the House of Commons whose public conduct is activated by more pure and honourable motives than your own or whose support being so disinterested is more valuable’.2 Such qualities doubtless secured his re-election in 1818, when he was confronted with two pro-Catholic opponents. He died 22 June 1829.