FITZPATRICK, John, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory [I] (1745-1818), of Ampthill, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 2 May 1745, 1st s. of John Fitzpatrick†, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory [I], by Lady Evelyn Leveson Gower, da. of John, 1st Earl Gower; bro. of Hon. Richard Fitzpatrick*. educ. Westminster 1754-60; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1760. m. 26 Mar. 1769, Hon. Anne Liddell, da. of Henry Liddell†, 1st Baron Ravensworth, div. w. of Augustus Henry Fitzroy†, 3rd Duke of Grafton, 1da. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory [I] 23 Sept. 1758; cr. Baron Upper Ossory [GB] 9 Aug. 1794.
Ld. lt. Beds. 1771-d.
Col. Beds. militia 1771-95, Beds. vols. 1803.
Ranger, Rockingham Forest ?1773-d., and sometime of Waltham and Richmond forests.
Ossory, whose ‘coolness and good nature’ won him the affection of Horace Walpole, was a pillar of Brooks’s and a popular figure in fashionable Whig society. Returned again for Bedfordshire in 1790 on the interest of his second cousin, the 5th Duke of Bedford, he voted against government on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, and was listed favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791; but he became increasingly alarmed at the progress of events in France and at home and had seceded from the Whig Club by June 1792. It was with great reluctance, however, that he separated politically from Fox, his mentor, friend and relation. On 9 Nov. 1792 his nephew Lord Holland told Caroline Fox that Ossory ‘is grown tolerant of my opinions upon republican doctrines etc. excepting as to England’; but on 26 Dec. he warned her not to let Ossory know that Lord Lansdowne had been hinting at a reconciliation with Fox on a basis of outright opposition to the Court, as he would be ‘most terribly alarmed’ by the notion of Fox thus committing himself. He was listed among Members ‘supposed attached’ to the Duke of Portland in December 1792 but, convinced that the war must be supported, he joined the ‘third party’ venture in 1793, when he appended to a eulogy of Fox, written in 1782, the observation:
I retract none of my former sentiments of Mr Fox, but I can differ with him. This detestable French revolution is the cause, and though I am sure he does not approve it, yet he will not give countenance to the war which we are now engaged in, and in which everything is at stake. He leans in these dangerous times to opinions, which, if not destroyed, must destroy all order and civilisation in Europe.1
Lord Holland observed, several years after Ossory’s death, that he had lacked ‘the habits of intense application to any object of ambition or vanity’; but he showed impressive tenacity in his pursuit of a British peerage, his sole political ambition, and his application to Pitt in July 1793 was only the latest in a series of requests made over the previous 25 years. His brother Richard told Holland, 22 Jan. 1794, that he suspected Ossory was ‘one of those who vote for the war with a heavy heart’, but he continued to do so and his only known vote in opposition to government after 1792 was for his brother’s motion on behalf of Lafayette, 17 Mar. 1794.2 He is not known to have spoken in the House in this period. Ossory sat on the secret committee of inquiry into seditious activity in May 1794 and received a British peerage as his share in the spoils of the Portland Whigs on their junction with government in July. Lady Spencer took a cynical view of his protestations that ‘since the peerage was thrown at his head, he could not refuse it’, alleging that he had been ‘working like a mole underground all the while’; and Caroline Fox wrote to Holland, 6 Aug.:
I am sorry since he has altered his opinions, that he has not thought proper to do it, so as to acquire or at least retain the credit of doing it disinterestedly. A man may perhaps sacrifice his dignity to what he thinks the good of the country, by taking a responsible place in times of difficulty and danger ... but how conscience or one’s country can be benefited by the acceptance of a ... peerage is not so easily explained.
As early as January 1795 Glenbervie noted that Ossory’s ‘conversation is not warm towards ministers’ and by 1806 he had drifted back to his Foxite friends and relatives. Lord Holland, to whom he bequeathed Ampthill, later wrote of him:
Lord Ossory had not that force of mind which public life demands or creates ... He had too much respect, not to say awe, of the opinion of the world to make any strong or lasting impression; but he was far from being a common man. In all branches of taste his perceptions were quick and just, and on every question, private and public, his judgement was sound and his expression of it distinct and sincere ... Perhaps ... an unusual calmness of judgement, blended with some distrust of anything approaching to vehemence or enthusiasm, extinguished all ambition ... and taught him to seek refuge in a tame and inglorious, but not unlettered or irrational, life in the country.3
He died 1 Feb. 1818.