DOUGLAS, John (1774-1838), of Newmarket Palace, Cambs.
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Family and Educationbap. 1 Feb. 1774,1 1st s. of John Douglas of Grantham, Lincs. and w. Harriott née Lucke (she m. (2) 1791, Henry Jermyn, barrister and antiquary). educ. Rev. Hall’s sch. Grantham 1780; Oriel, Oxf. 1793. unm. suc. fa. 1787. d. 6 Aug. 1838.
Member of council, duchy of Cornw. 1819-20.
In 1826, when Douglas’s ‘anxious desire to be restored to Parliament’ was ‘all at an end’, the earl of Westmorland sympathized and paid him the compliment ‘that ministers had not a steadier attendant to their interests than myself proved to be the eight or nine years I had served’.2 The son and heir of a wealthy Lincolnshire landowner with estates in Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Flint, Lanarkshire and Middlesex and investments in the Lancashire cotton industry, Douglas established himself as a courtier and connoisseur of the horse racing at Newmarket. He was brought in for Orford by the 2nd marquess of Hertford in 1818 (and again in 1820) as a personal favour to George IV as regent, to whom his brother-in-law Benjamin Bloomfield† was private secretary from 1817 to 1822.3
An anti-Catholic Tory, who is not known to have spoken in debate, Douglas divided with Lord Liverpool’s government on revenue collection, 4 July 1820, their handling of the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., and the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821. He resigned in April to make way for the foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh and was rewarded a year later, possibly as a parting concession to Bloomfield, by being returned on the Fownes Luttrell interest for Minehead, where Hertford’s retirees were welcome paying guests.4 He again divided against Catholic relief, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, and voted against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He voted against Scottish parliamentary reform, 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824. (On 23 Apr. 1831, writing to the 5th duke of Rutland, he expressed his disapproval of the ‘accursed reform bill, not but I am of opinion that a something was necessary, but not of so sweeping a tendency’.)5 He voted against inquiring into Irish tithes, 19 June 1822, and divided with ministers on the revenue and retrenchment, 28 June 1822, 13, 18 Mar. 1823, the Foreign Enlistment Act, 25 Feb. 1823, and the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 24 Mar., 22 Apr. 1823. His votes for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 6, 10 June, and against the spring guns bill, 17 June 1825 were the last recorded for him. He was disappointed to be left without a seat at the dissolution in 1826 and, although ‘not altogether bereft of distant hope that he [Hertford] yet will seat me in some one of his double returns when Parliament meets’, he went to Sweden, where Bloomfield and his son had accepted diplomatic postings.6
Gambling losses, largely accruing from his turf accounting activities at Newmarket - Douglas laid the blame on ‘Peel and Huskisson ... tampering with the currency’, problems raising capital from his property and ‘keeping too large establishment of servants’ - had reduced his fortune and conspired to keep him in Sweden until 1835, outstaying Hertford’s mission (1827) and Bloomfield, who departed in 1828, leaving his son in charge.7 Douglas was refused a pension or diplomatic salary.8 The commissioners of woods and forests had terminated his tenancy at Newmarket Palace in 1831, and on his return he made his home with his cousin, John Hargreave Douglas of Gyrn Castle, Llanasa, Flintshire, where he died in August 1838.