HILL, Sir George Fitzgerald, 2nd. Bt. (1763-1839), of Brook Hall, co. Londonderry.
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Family and Education
b. 1 June 1763, 1st s. of Sir Hugh Hill, 1st Bt., MP [I], of Brook Hall by 2nd w. Hannah, da. of John McClintock, MP [I], of Dunmore, co. Donegal, wid. of John Spence of co. Leitrim. educ. Londonderry; Trinity, Dublin 1780; L. Inn 1780, called [I] 1786; continental tour. m. 10 Sept. 1788, Jane, da. of Hon. John Beresford*, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 31 Jan. 1795.
MP [I] 1791-8.
Clerk of the parlt. [I] Jan. 1798-1800; commr. of Treasury [I] May 1807-17; PC [I] 24 Dec. 1808, [GB] 31 May 1817; vice-treasurer [I] Jan. 1817-30; gov. St. Vincent Nov. 1830-3, of Trinidad Apr. 1833-d.
Recorder, Londonderry 1791; trustee, linen board [I] 1801.
Capt. commdt. Londonderry legion 1796; lt.-col. co. Londonderry militia 1800, col. 1822.
Hill’s father, descended from Samuel Hill of Buckinghamshire, Cromwell’s Irish treasurer, was Member for Derry for 27 years. Hill consolidated his family’s influence in Ulster by marrying into the Beresford family and entered the Irish parliament for Coleraine on the interest of his father-in-law’s brother, the Marquess of Waterford. In 1795 he succeeded his father as Member for Derry. He hoped for legal office, was an adviser on Lord Abercorn’s Irish concerns and in 1798 obtained a lucrative place for which he received compensation of £2,265 per annum at the Union.1 He was returned to Westminster for the county on his wife’s family interest soon after the Union to keep the seat warm for Lord George Thomas Beresford, by prior arrangement with Henry Alexander*. In 1802 he resumed the representation of the city and retained it, though in 1806 he was also returned for Coleraine as a security precaution.2 Of his local role he wrote to Peel in 1825:3
For thirty years past no one resident gentleman has been more actively connected with the concerns of the north than myself, no one man more useful in preserving the country from disturbance, when disturbance has been threatened, no man possessed of considerable influence there has exerted it more effectively for good there than I have, frequently, in at least neutralizing and likewise overpowering the radical politics of the Belfast reformers.
I was thanked by ministers for having stopped rebellion from extending by my services in 1797. I have never ceased since to watch and exert myself when critical circumstances require my interference, in fact I am from continued exertion placed in that part of Ireland in estimation with the gentry which mere rank or fortune could not command. How the influence of the Catholic Board in 1813 and 14 was met by vigilance and magisterial firmness and prudence to prevent mischief in that quarter you might know. The part I have successfully taken to induce a large proportion of the north to relinquish the Orange societies as injurious to Protestant interests (for I admit that and no dictation was my motive) entitle[s] me to some merit with my ministerial friends.
Hill made his debut at Westminster by defending the continuation of martial law, 12 Mar. 1801: ‘palliatives were unfit for Ireland’. On 30 Apr. 1802 he defended the Irish revenue collectors, of whom his brother was one, against Corry’s supposed aspersions on them. Like Addington, whose fall Hill declined to witness, Pitt could count on his independent support as a member of the Beresford connexion4 and he was in the government minority against the censure on Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. He also made a violent speech and was teller against the Catholic petition, 14 May 1805, describing it, amid cries of ‘order’, as a ‘party trick’ and urging that, as property was ‘the criterion of political powers’ and as no securities were offered, the Irish Protestants were entitled to supremacy. On the other hand, he was at times critical of government handling of Irish questions, particularly the bank-note bill, 29 June 1804, the retail tax, 15 Mar., Newport’s Irish lunatic asylum bill, 4 Apr., and the Irish town water supply bill, 21 May 1805. On 29 Mar. 1805 he defended the Irish militia and on 5 June the Irish established clergy against their critics. He was at this time interested in becoming under-secretary at the Castle.
In July 1806 Hill was commended by the Irish secretary for his ‘cordial and steady support’ of the Grenville ministry and, at the risk of alienating the Ponsonbys, the Castle decided for the sake of keeping the Beresford squad’s support to allow one of Hill’s brothers to succeed another, who had died, to the lucrative office of collector of the port of Londonderry; though neither of them had a reputation for efficiency. Hill also received government backing for his election, though Lord Howick, for one, thought him ‘a sad fellow, and not to be counted upon for a moment’.5 He was in Ireland when the House gave its verdict against the outgoing ministers in April 1807 and soon came to terms with the Portland ministry, who made him a commissioner of the Irish treasury, 16 May. On 30 July he defended the effectiveness of the militia against Windham’s military arrangements of 1806. In January 1808, when he received the viceroy at Derry, he asked for an Irish privy councillorship, for which he claimed Pitt’s promise and which he duly received as his reward, as he thought, for managing ‘a large district of the north of Ireland, at great expense, and with some success for many years’.6
Hill stood by government on the Duke of York’s conduct, February 1809, and in the divisions on the Scheldt expedition, January-March 1810; opposed Irish tithe reform, 14 Apr.; voted against the release of Gale Jones, 16 Apr., against parliamentary reform, 17 May, and against Catholic relief, 1 June 1810. The crisis in the personal affairs of John Claudius Beresford* prevented him from attending the Regency debates next session, though pressed to do so,7 but he voted against Catholic relief, 1 June 1811, and in 1812 he rallied, voting regularly against sinecure reform and with the government minority against Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May. On 22 Apr. he presented a Catholic petition from Derry, emphasizing, however, that most of his constituents’ were against it and that he was performing a mere duty. After his election that year he denied any change of heart on the subject and voted his hostility, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813. On 17 and 21 June 1813 he assisted the passage of the bill to prevent illicit distillation in Ireland.8
Subsequently Hill was somewhat out of humour with government and remiss in his attendance.9 Apart from a backhanded attack on Catholic extremism in the debate on Orange extremism, which he also deprecated, 4 July 1815, he evidently took no part in debate between 1813 and 1816. In the latter year, apart from his exposure of subversion at the Belfast Academy, 10 May, and his usual opposition to Catholic relief, against which he was teller, 21 May, he was chairman of the committee on the bill to prevent illicit distillation, which he championed in debate, 22 May, the only northern Irish Member to do so. Commending him for this and noting his disappointment at not obtaining a new secretaryship to the Treasury of which Castlereagh and Vansittart had given him hopes, the chief secretary proposed to humour Hill with local patronage. Then in December 1816, when the Irish treasury was consolidated with the English, he was awarded and reluctantly accepted the vice-treasurership. He insisted on being an English privy councillor as well.10
Hill, who again voted against Catholic relief, 9 May 1817, was prominent in debates on Ireland henceforward. He opposed Newport’s motion of inquiry into the state of Ireland, 20 June 1817. On 13 and 30 June he felt obliged to oppose the Irish grand jury bill then proposed, and while he favoured its introduction in May 1818 he was still not happy about it: the amended bill of February 1819 had his approval. That month he was named to the finance committee. He had supported the Irish assessed taxes, though unpopular, 13 May 1818, and on 30 May 1818 and 7 May 1819 was the advocate of the retention of the district fines scheme to prevent illicit distillation. He doubted the utility or propriety of legislation to safeguard child factory labour in Ireland, 27 Apr. 1819. He presented an anti-Catholic petition from Derry with satisfaction, 3 May 1819, but was out of sympathy with his constituents’ appeal against the window tax which he had presented the night after. Hill died 8 Mar. 1839.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Add. 33119, f. 30; 40298, f. 29; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 280.
- 2. Add. 35771, f. 197.
- 3. Add. 40373, f. 175.
- 4. Corresp. Rt. Hon. J. Beresford, ii. 288; Add. 35713, f. 33.
- 5. HMC Fortescue, viii. 229, 232, 235, 237, 238, 430, 432; Wickham mss 5/15, Hill to Wickham, 4 Nov. 1802.
- 6. Wilson (1808), 369; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 19, 293; Wellington mss, Hill to Wellesley, 3 Jan., Wellesley to Duke of Richmond, 7 Jan. 1808; NLI, Richmond mss 72/1493.
- 7. Richmond mss 64/727, 728.
- 8. O’Connell Corresp. ii. 627.
- 9. Add. 40283, f. 93; 40288, ff. 47, 204; 40290, ff. 48, 52.
- 10. Add. 40181, f. 83; 40212, ff. 185, 201; 40291, f. 69; 40292, f. 215. Hill’s official pprs. are at PRO NI, DOD642.