LEE, Edward (?1761-by 1822), of Tramore Park, co. Waterford.
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Family and Education
b. ?1761, 1st s. of Bolton Lee, barrister, of Waterford by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Beverley Ussher, MP [I], of Kilmeadon. educ. Trinity, Dublin 10 June 1778, aged 17; M. Temple 1780, called [I] 1786. m. 11 Oct. 1798, Eliza, da. and coh. of Sackville Gardiner of Dublin, issue.
MP [I] 1797-1800.
Sheriff, co. Waterford 1804-5.
Commdt. Middle yeoman cav.
Lee, an ambitious third generation barrister, was returned for Dungarvan, where he had a small property, as Lord Waterford’s Member during the last Irish parliament. He opposed the Union, but was one of those Members who in June 1800 declared that they would accept the fait accompli. Returned on the ballot to Westminster, he was from the start expected to support government, who already had him earmarked as candidate for the county at the next election under the aegis of Lord Waterford with a view to throwing out Richard Power*. He had married into Lord Mountjoy’s family, was brother-in-law to Falkiner, the Member for county Dublin, cousin of William Congreve Alcock* and connected with Sir John Keane*. In the session of 1801 he proved one of government’s ‘most useful and constant supporters’, in the opinion of Chief Secretary Abbot, who hoped that Lee’s application of 27 June for preferment for his brother in the church, made before the Union but forfeited then by Lee’s opposition, would be granted in due course.1
Lee had made his Westminster debut by supporting martial law in Ireland, 12 Mar. 1801, and on 19 Mar. and 27 May, on the same subject, he defended the conduct of the Irish landed gentry during the rebellion against their opposition critics. He defended the Irish courts bill, 24 Apr., and on 28 May the Irish controverted elections bill, for which he had made many suggestions to the chief secretary beforehand. On 10 June he defended the continuation of martial law in Ireland and on 11 June spoke and was teller for the habeas corpus indemnity bill. It was for these services that the chief secretary recommended him to the viceroy as ‘a valuable parliamentary friend to your government’2
On 3 Nov. 1801 Lee seconded the address of thanks for peace, at Addington’s request. His ‘rather long’ speech was in marked contrast to the stolid effort of the proposer, Hartopp, having
a great fluency of bad expression—such as ‘her present altitudinous situation’; among other things equally ridiculous, he told us, if peace lasted for 73 years the whole debt would be extinguished—I wonder he did not tell us we should live to see it extinguished. He then made another ingenious calculation and said that he found we had as many miles of sea coast as France if we reckoned our territories in the East and West Indies. He accused those who approved of the negotiations at Lille of inconsistency in opposing the present peace.
While Lee was thus ridiculed by the Devonshire House Whigs, he was one of the few Irish Members the minister wished to see secure of a seat in Parliament. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Chief Secretary Abbot’s campaign against jobbery in Ireland and informed him ‘every honest man in Ireland is your friend’; and on the advent of peace advocated to the Castle the repeal of all ‘harsh laws passed both in England and Ireland during the war’. On 27 Apr. 1802 he took over from George Ponsonby* the introduction and defence of the Irish courts of judicature bill, but gave it up on 25 May on government’s advice that it should be vetted by the Irish bench. He consoled himself by defending and acting as teller for the Irish controverted elections bill, which passed on 17 June. He also undertook the cause of Irish militia regulations against John Foster, 14 June, though he had reportedly gone away before the divison on 7 May in sympathy with Foster’s anti-Union speech.3
Lee came in for the county without a contest at the election of 1802. The Castle now offered his brother Ussher the deanery of Kilmacduagh and his brother Richard was given a military posting in Ireland at his request in 1803.4 Meanwhile he resumed the championship of the Irish courts bill in the House, 22 Feb. 1803. The compensation clauses led to heated debate on 4 May and Chief Secretary Wickham reported Lee to have been ‘violently angry and ... most outrageous in his speech’5 that day; he met with further difficulties on 11 May, but secured his object. Lee was unhappy about the perpetualization of the Irish indirect taxes, 8 Mar. 1803, calling for a delay, and on 20 June suggested that a property tax would do Irish trade less harm. On 3 June he criticized Pitt for his aloof attitude to Patten’s censure motion against Addington’s administration.
Lee was a supporter of government’s Irish militia programme and on 18 Nov. 1803 asked the minister’s leave to remain in Ireland with his yeomanry till the danger of invasion was over. To boost his local importance, he also requested the deanery of Waterford for his brother Ussher: this favour was shelved because of the competing claims first of the chief secretary’s brother and then of Lord Cole’s. Although Lee was a leading advocate and government teller for the Irish militia offer bill, 13 Apr. 1804, he transferred his allegiance from Addington’s to Pitt’s second ministry readily. His patron’s uncle John Beresford* reported: ‘Mr Lee has assured me that he will go as I go (which declaration I had a right to expect from him)’. Lee was privately thought to be disappointed at not having been offered office by Addington.6 Pitt did no more for him in that line, but thought it right that he should be ‘gratified’, so his brother secured the deanery of Waterford. Meanwhile, Lee had blossomed forth as an advocate of the abolition of the slave trade, 30 May 1804, and been commissioned by Wilberforce to rally the Irish Members for it. On 18 June he supported Pitt’s additional force bill vocally, having previously voted for it, now that recruitment by ballot had been omitted, but that day did not vote because of Canning’s attack on Addington, which he deprecated. On 20 June he gave his ‘entire approbation’ to the Irish budget, which substituted taxes for loans. He then left for Ireland ‘on account of the indisposition of some part of his family’.7
In December 1804 Lee was listed ‘doubtful’ and not ‘Irish Pitt’ as in September. He spoke on Irish questions in March and April 1805, introducing on 25 Apr. motions for bills to regulate Irish small notes and petty debt recovery: Lord Redesdale labelled him ‘one of the great manufacturers of Irish legislation’. Lee was in the government minority on 8 Apr. 1805 and was greatly impressed by the House’s hostility to Pitt. On 14 May he spoke and voted for the reception of the Catholic petition. In July he was listed ‘doubtful Sidmouthite’, having proceeded to Ireland after the Catholic debate and declined to return, as he would not ‘for the whole political world’ be absent from his wife during her confinement. The viceroy thought, more prosaically, that he ‘ought to attend from the favours lately conferred on his brother’. Lee was confident Pitt had no need of his support.8
Lee’s attitude to the Grenville ministry was the guarded one of his Beresford patrons, with quirks of his own, partly derived from Addington’s return to office. On 27 Feb. 1806 he directed the House to rule out motions without previous notice. He was a critic of the election treating bill in March, but supported the interchange of the Irish militia and voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. On 6 May he explained that he approved of the government’s new military plan, except for limited enlistment. He had also criticized Paull’s case against the Marquess of Wellesley’s conduct in India, 28 Apr., and next day was teller on the government side on the election expenses bill. In mid May 1806 he left town, on which Fox commented ‘he ought to perceive that he is not regarded in the same manner as he would be, if he had stayed’.9
Lee gave up a contest for the county in 1806. He was then out of Parliament, and though he was mentioned as a candidate for the county in 1807, and again heard of in Ireland lecturing the Catholics on their gaffe in refusing to accept the veto, and falsely rumoured to be standing for Waterford city in 1812, he eventually settled in Devonshire. Thence he wrote to Lord Sidmouth, 20 Oct. 1817, asking him to assist him in his ambition to come in for Totnes at the next election.10 Nothing came of this, and Lee was dead by 1822.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Arthur Aspinall
- 1. HO 100/94, Castlereagh to Portland, 9 June ; Add. 35711, f. 53; 35781, ff. 32, 50.
- 2. PRO 30/8/325, f. 78; Add. 35711, f. 53.
- 3. Leveson Gower, i. 309; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire jnl. 5 Nov. 1801; Colchester, i. 377; PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/1, Addington to Abbot, 16 Oct. 1801, 11 Jan. 1802; pt. 3/3, Lee to same [2 Nov.], 10 Nov. 1801, 16 Feb.; Wickham mss 5/6, Wickham to Redesdale, 26 Apr. 1802; Add. 35713, f. 92.
- 4. Wickham mss 5/3, Wickham to Lee, 18 Oct. 1802; Add. 35772, ff. 63, 64; 35785, f. 54.
- 5. Wickham mss 5/21, Wickham to Hardwicke, 5 May 1803.
- 6. Sidmouth mss, Lee to Addington, 18 Nov., Wickham to same, 11 Dec. 1803; Add. 35777, f. 85; Wickham mss 5/45, Nepean to Wickham, 24 Mar. 1804; Corresp. Rt. Hon. J. Beresford, ii. 288; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 763/2 (co. Waterford).
- 7. Add. 35715, f. 51, 84, 92.
- 8. Add. 31230, f. 24; 35710, f. 106; 35757, f. 299; 49188, f. 200.
- 9. NLS mss 12920, Fox to Elliot [May 1806].
- 10. HMC Fortescue, viii. 297, 312; ix. 227-8; Add. 40222, f. 93; Sidmouth mss, Lee to Sidmouth, 11 Apr. 1812, 20 Oct. 1817.