FORTESCUE, see Hugh, Hugh, Visct. Ebrington (1783-1861), of 11 North Audley Street, Mdx. and Castle Hill, nr. Barnstaple, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



4 Aug. 1804 - 1807
22 July 1807 - Feb. 1809
1812 - 8 May 1816
5 June 1816 - 9 June 1817
1818 - 1820
22 May 1820 - 1830
1830 - 1832
1832 - 1 Mar. 1839

Family and Education

b. 13 Feb. 1783, 1st s. of Hugh Fortescue†, 1st Earl Fortescue, and Hester, da. of George Grenville† of Wotton, Bucks.; bro. of Hon. George Matthew Fortescue*. educ. Eton 1793; Brasenose, Oxf. 1800. m. (1) 4 July 1817, Lady Susan Ryder (d. 30 July 1827), da. of Dudley Ryder†, 1st earl of Harrowby, 3s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 26 July 1841, Elizabeth, da. of Piers Geale of Clonsilla, co. Dublin, wid. of Sir Marcus Somerville, 4th bt.*, s.p. summ. to Lords in his fa’s barony as Lord Fortescue 1 Mar. 1839; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl Fortescue 16 June 1841; KG 12 July 1856. d. 14 Sept. 1861.

Offices Held

Ensign 9 Ft. 1808.

PC 1 Mar. 1839; ld. lt. [I] Apr. 1839-Sept. 1841; ld. steward of household July 1846-Mar. 1850.

Ld. lt. Devon 1839-d.; high steward, Barnstaple and South Molton.

Col. E. Devon militia 1816.


Ebrington, a man of ‘sepulchral religiosity’ with a ‘tendency to carry conscientiousness to extremes’, had severed his remaining connections with his Grenvillite relatives in 1817 and acted thereafter with the advanced section of the Whig party.1 In 1820 he faced another severe contest against the Tories Bastard and Acland for the Devon seat which he had captured in 1818. He expressed disappointment in his address at Parliament’s failure to enact ‘reforms in our public expenditure’ and reduce ‘those burdens which press ... upon the people’, justified his ‘steady and conscientious’ opposition to the Six Acts and reaffirmed his attachment to ‘those great principles of religious liberty, which I have ever held to be inseparable from the cause of political freedom’. He retired after three days, ostensibly as a matter of honour after an accusation he had levelled against one of Acland’s relatives of promoting a covert coalition with Bastard had been proved false, although he was at the bottom of the poll in any case. He was returned for Tavistock in May 1820 on the duke of Bedford’s interest.2

He was a regular attender who continued to vote with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9, 10 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 13, 27 Apr., 26 May 1826. He paired for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, and divided against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 21, 25 Feb., to hear the Catholic Association at the bar of the House, 18 Feb., and for relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He observed in October 1820 that ministers seemed ‘determined to drive matters to extremity between the king and the people’ over the Queen Caroline affair, and in September 1821 he privately described Sir Robert Wilson’s* dismissal from the army as a ‘mean act of revenge for the victory gained over the ministers by the people at the poor queen’s funeral’.3 He attended the Devon county meeting on the Catholic question, 16 Mar. 1821, when he argued that concession posed no danger to the constitution and moved an unsuccessful amendment in favour of Burdett’s relief bill.4 He saw no justification for ‘such frightful and oppressive measures’ as the Irish Insurrection Act, 7 Feb., and acted as a minority teller against the Irish constables bill, which was ‘subversive of everything like a free government’, 7 June 1822. By 1824 it had become his practice to reside in Ireland for a few months each year, and in January 1825 he wrote that he intended to contribute to the ‘Catholic rent’.5 He was prepared to accept the Irish franchise bill, 9 May 1825, as it would ‘conciliate to the cause of emancipation many persons who would otherwise remain hostile to it’. At a county meeting, 5 Apr. 1821, he moved the petition for relief from agricultural distress and reform, arguing that the only remedy was economy and retrenchment, which could never be achieved ‘while the representation continued in its present corrupt state’. He personally favoured the disfranchisement of venal boroughs, the redistribution of 20 seats to large unrepresented towns, the opening of all close and corporation boroughs to the inhabitant householders, the removal of half the placemen from the Commons and triennial parliaments. He supported the resulting petition in the Commons, 17 Apr. 1821.6 He presented similar petitions from Tavistock and elsewhere in Devon, 6, 14 Mar., 22, 25 Apr., and expressed satisfaction with ‘the diffusion of a liberal feeling throughout the country upon the subject’, 9 May 1822.7 Later that month at the Westminster election anniversary dinner he proposed the toast to the Member John Cam Hobhouse and prefaced his remarks ‘with a handsome encomium, owning he had opposed me in [1819], had been in error and would never be in error again’.8 He presided at the county meeting on reform, 11 Apr. 1823, and argued, with reference to events in Spain, that reform was essential to preserve popular liberties when ‘there was abroad a combination of tyrants ... for the purpose of putting down that first right of every independent state’.9 He presented the resulting petition, 2 June 1823. He favoured applying the whole of the sinking fund to tax reductions, 1 May 1822, and complained of the ‘oppressive operation’ of the coal duties, 29 Mar. 1824.10 However, he reportedly ‘stayed away’ from the division on Lennard’s motion on diplomatic expenditure, 16 May 1822, as a matter of ‘good taste’ towards his old Grenvillite allies.11 He introduced a merchant seamen’s wages recovery bill, 28 Apr., which gained royal assent, 26 May 1826. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed for Tavistock, although some radicals put his name forward for the county without his consent in order to force a token contest.12

He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and warned that unless something was ‘speedily done for Ireland, much evil would follow’, 13 Mar. 1827. He presented several petitions from Devon Dissenters for repeal of the Test Acts, 28 May, 6, 22 June.13 He voted against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar., and for inquiry into Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and Tierney’s motion to postpone the committee of supply, 30 Mar. In April he assured Lord Lansdowne that if he joined Canning’s coalition ministry, ‘I, as a very humble member of the party which looks to you as its chief, shall feel bound to give ... my cordial and zealous support’, while ‘reserving ... my old opinions on parliamentary reform and possibly one or two other questions of general principle on which I may differ from you’.14 Bedford, who wanted the Whigs to maintain their independence, was concerned that Ebrington and others ‘talk of giving an unqualified support to Canning, solely to keep the intolerant ultras from returning’, but when Ebrington offered to vacate his seat the duke expressed confidence in the ‘integrity’ of his political principles.15 He voted against government for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, and thought a ‘sufficient case’ had been made for the disfranchisement of East Retford, 22 June. He supported the sale of game bill, 7 June, ‘because he considered it to be the first step to greater improvements’.16 In December 1827 he wrote to his brother that Lord Goderich’s ministry could not survive ‘without men [of] energy and unity of purpose among them’ able to withstand ‘the extravagant pretensions and personal slights ... from the king’. He was glad that Lansdowne had done ‘one good service for the country by the dismissal of the yeomanry, which looks like an earnest of more constitutional feeling than we have seen for some time’.17 He presented more petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 21 Feb., and voted in this sense, 26 Feb. 1828. He divided for Catholic claims, 12 May, but concluded that the duke of Wellington’s ministry had ‘no intention’ of acting, 12 June; he looked for ultimate success to ‘the growing spirit of liberality ... within these walls’ and to ‘the union ... perseverance and ... power of the Catholics’. He voted for inquiry into the Irish church, 24 June. He divided against extending East Retford’s franchise to Bassetlaw freeholders, 21 Mar., and to disqualify certain East Retford voters, 24 June, and argued that the seats should be given to a large manufacturing town, 27 June. He presented an inhabitants’ petition against the Dartmouth harbour bill, ‘as barefaced a corporation job as ever came under the notice of Parliament’, 24 Mar. He voted to condemn delays in chancery, 24 Apr., and the misapplication of public money for building work at Buckingham House, 23 June. He divided against the small notes (Ireland and Scotland) bill, 16 June, and argued that ‘by requiring security from the country bankers, we might have all the advantages of a paper currency without any of its dangers’. He voted for the usury laws amendment bill, 19 June. In October he applied to join the Catholic Association, explaining that while he had initially disapproved of its formation, and though his ‘political opinions still differ in many respects from those ... expressed by some of its members’, when he saw ‘the British government and the Irish people’ being ‘menaced’ by the Brunswick Clubs, he believed it was essential for ‘the friends of religious liberty’ to unite.18 According to Lord John Russell*, Ebrington maintained in December 1828 that ‘he should vote against any bill that disfranchised the 40s. freeholders, whatever else it might contain’.19 It was said of him at this time that his ‘spirits are much mended’, after the death of his wife the previous year, and that ‘he now mixes cheerfully in society, but there is still in him ... a morbid disposition to nourish sorrow’.20

Ebrington attended the county meeting on the Catholic question, 16 Jan. 1829, when he warned, as one who ‘had a deep stake in both countries’, that ‘unless they contemplated the separation of Ireland from this country they must emancipate the Catholics’. He denied that emancipation would endanger the established church but argued that a reform of Irish tithes was needed.21 He criticized the conduct of the meeting and the way signatures to the resulting anti-Catholic petition were obtained, 24 Feb., and claimed that a counter-petition showed that ‘the property and respectability of the county are balanced upon the question’. Earlier that month, when it became clear that ministers intended to take action, he privately advised Daniel O’Connelb to dissolve the Association.22 He offered his ‘warm applause’ to the government and praised the Association for helping to ‘preserve peace and tranquillity in Ireland’, by encouraging respect for the law, 19 Feb.; he duly voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. He sponsored O’Connell’s unsuccessful attempt to take his seat, 15 May,23 and divided against the motion that he had to swear the oath of supremacy, 18 May. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, and for Lord Blandford’s reform resolutions, 2 June. He divided against the additional grant for the sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. He voted for Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb., the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar., O’Connell’s secret ballot amendment to the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 15 Mar., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May 1830. He joined in the revived opposition campaign that session for economy and retrenchment. He divided for information regarding British interference in the affairs of Portugal, 10 Mar. He praised the ‘temperate and very proper language’ used in the Devon petition for tithes reform and believed that a settlement would be beneficial ‘both to the clergy and to the agriculturists’, 11 May. He voted that day to abolish the Irish lord lieutenancy. He presented a Tavistock petition for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 13 May, and voted in this sense, 24 May, 7 June. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He voted for Labouchere’s motion on the civil government of Canada, 25 May, and reform of the divorce laws, 3 June 1830. At the end of the session a ‘very large meeting’ of opposition Members took place at Ebrington’s house, where arrangements were made to act together in future under Lord Althorp’s leadership.24 Shortly before the dissolution that summer Ebrington offered to retire from Tavistock in order to avoid a possible conflict of opinion with his patron, as he felt that unless Wellington strengthened his cabinet ‘I may eventually in the course of next session be driven into more decided opposition ... than I have been hitherto’. Although Bedford again returned him, he had already accepted a requisition to stand for the county and was returned at the head of the poll with Acland, ousting Bastard, in what he described as a ‘battle of independence’ which had ‘taught a lesson to the bigoted and corrupt’.25

In his speech at a celebration dinner in August 1830, Ebrington acknowledged that ‘the cause of religious liberty is indebted’ to Wellington’s government and that ‘in consequence of such principles being acted upon ... I have been able, and hope still to be able, to give it my support’. He wished to see men of ability ‘called into the high offices of state without regard to party’, and a ‘first step’ taken towards ‘that reform which is so necessary to the stability and welfare of the kingdom’. These comments caused some surprise to his Whig colleagues, and in a letter to Brougham he explained his meaning:

That though I had seen much to condemn I had also seen much to approve in the measures of the present government, and that in various instances when I had opposed them I thought the fault was more in their incapacity than their ill intentions. That whilst the glorious events in France and the impression this had made throughout England must show them the necessity of adopting a more liberal system of foreign policy, I hoped that the accession of a new king quite free from all personal prejudices and petty jealousies would by enabling the duke ... and Mr. Peel to strengthen their government with abler and better colleagues ... afford me the satisfaction of giving them a more frequent support than that done hitherto. This I consider a fair exposé of the line of conduct which in conjunction with Althorp and others I pursued during the last session.26

Ministers listed him in September among their ‘foes’, but Russell was still encouraging him next month to move an address to the crown calling for their reinforcement.27 He voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. It appears that he was ‘not considered for office’ in Lord Grey’s ministry.28 He presented numerous anti-slavery petitions in November 1830. He regretted the recent coercive measures introduced in Ireland, 11 Feb. 1831, but accepted that the state of the country made them ‘absolutely requisite’. He warned that repeal of the Union would ‘inevitably lead to a complete separation of the two countries’, the ‘ruin of Ireland’ and the ultimate ‘destruction of the British empire’. That day he presented petitions in favour of tithes reform and, ‘as a sincere friend to the church’, he urged the clergy to offer a speedy commutation, observing that in Devon there was ‘such a degree of ferment on the subject as to occasion me considerable alarm’. He presented a petition from the county reform meeting, 16 Feb., which he claimed would have received more signatures had it included the demand for the ballot, and similar ones from towns in Devon, 9, 11, 26, 28 Feb. On 2 Mar. he praised the government for its ‘great and comprehensive, and safe, because efficient and full’ reform bill, which appealed to ‘the wealth, respectability and intelligence of the great body of the middle classes of England’. Speaking as one who was ‘connected ... with the aristocratical parts of the constitution’, he was ‘not fool enough to wish to see them overthrown’, but he was confident that their interests were ‘perfectly reconcilable’ with those of the middle classes. He admitted that in the past he had only supported a ‘moderate’ redistribution of seats, but he now recognized the need for a more extensive measure to give ‘due preponderance to every interest of the state’ and ‘stem the torrent of corruption’. He was prepared to sacrifice shorter parliaments and the ballot so as not to endanger the bill, but warned that if it failed ‘the confidence of the country will be altogether withdrawn from this House’. He presented petitions in favour of the bill from various parts of Devon, 19, 22 Mar., when he divided for its second reading. He voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he stood again for Devon and was returned unopposed with Russell after Acland retired. He declared that he was for ‘the whole bill’, with only minor amendments possible in committee, argued that ‘the number of Members for England ought to be diminished’ and looked forward to the time when ‘the race of borough mongers shall become extinct’.29

He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced bill, 6 July 1831, and steadily for its details in committee. It was apparently owing to his and Edward Littleton’s efforts behind the scenes that the government stood firm and a successful division was achieved on the division of counties, 11 Aug.30 He doubted the efficacy of Hume’s plan to expedite the bill’s passage and acquitted Althorp of the charge of ‘slackness’, 27 Aug. He voted for the third reading, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. It was at this point that he emerged as a leading figure among the Whig backbenchers, although it is not clear to what extent he was acting on his own initiative, being put up to it by Thomas Macaulay (as the latter claimed),31 or being manipulated by ministers. He, Littleton, Sir Francis Lawley and Edward Portman issued circulars summoning government supporters to a meeting at his house, 21 Sept., to consider what steps should be taken in the event in the bill’s rejection by the Lords. No specific decision was reached, but it was agreed that ministers should be persuaded not to resign; according to a Tory source Ebrington and Hume had wanted Members to pledge their support to the government ‘through thick and thin, making it a condition that they should create peers’.32 He was present at the county meeting to petition the Lords for the bill’s speedy passage, 30 Sept., when he expressed the hope that William IV would if necessary ‘exercise his prerogative for the benefit of the people’ and declared that ‘temper and perseverance must conquer’. However, shortly before the Lords’ rejection of the bill on 8 Oct., Hobhouse found him to be ‘somewhat fearful of popular tumult’.33 That evening ‘about 200’ Members met ‘under the auspices of Ebrington’ at Willis’s Rooms, where it was agreed to support his resolutions on the 10th proclaiming their ‘firm adherence’ to the bill and confidence in ministers.34 In the ensuing debate he adopted a ‘very moderate’ tone and one Whig Member judged it to be a ‘not very striking speech’. He called on the House to redeem its pledge to the country to ‘support the cause of reform’, and observed that the accession of Grey’s ministry had helped to ‘restore peace to the country’ and ‘allay the discontent of the middle classes’. He also praised the government for its tax reductions, reform of the game laws, chancery reforms and pacific foreign policy. Advising the people to remain orderly, the Commons consistent and ministers firm, he was confident that the reform bill would ‘consolidate all the blessings which the British constitution can bestow upon a happy and united people’. The resolutions were carried by 329-198, which was regarded as ‘a most opportune triumph’ that had ‘brought the ministry out from their defeat with flying colours’.35 He thought it would be ‘unjust to clog’ Queen Adelaide’s dower bill with conditions, in view of its connection with ‘an illustrious personage to whom we owe so much gratitude’, 22 July. He maintained that there was ‘no ground whatsoever for tracing the distress in Ireland to the legislative Union’, 16 Aug. He voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election and against the censure motion on the Irish administration, 23 Aug. He said that though ‘a conscientious Protestant’, he had always supported the Maynooth grant as ‘affording to my Catholic fellow subjects a participation in the constitutional rights and privileges which I ... enjoy’, 26 Sept. 1831.

Prior to the introduction of the revised reform bill Ebrington was in communication with Althorp, who promised to keep him informed of ‘any changes we may make’.36 He congratulated ministers on their ‘equally as effectual, equally as desirable’ measure, 12 Dec. 1831. At a cabinet dinner, 14 Dec., Althorp read a letter from him containing suggestions as to how the Irish representation might be increased and indicating that he ‘felt it his duty to move’ in the matter, but hoping that such a motion would ‘in his hands ... be less injurious to the ministry than if taken up by a Member less disposed to consult their interests’.37 He divided for the second reading of the English bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and steadily for its details. He advised Althorp to use Saturday sittings to overcome ‘unnecessary obstructions’ to the bill’s progress, 2 Feb. 1832, and in an angry scene he repudiated Hardinge’s insinuation that he was ‘the organ of the mob’.38 He admitted that a large creation of peers was ‘a dangerous proceeding ... [which] I would much rather see avoided’, 10 Feb., but considered the bill’s defeat to be ‘an evil of much greater magnitude’. It appears that during February he acted as an intermediary between Grey and the leader of the Tory ‘Waverers’, Lord Harrowby, his former father-in-law.39 At the end of the month, according to Littleton, ‘Ebrington and I pledged ourselves to ... die on the benches of the ... Commons sooner than allow town influence to be shut out of county elections’.40 He divided for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. It was rumoured the following month that he was on the ministerial list of proposed new peers.41 On 9 May, when it became known that the ministry had resigned, Ebrington gave notice of a call of the House for next day, and that evening some 180 Members met at Brooks’s to decide on the terms of his motion. He was reportedly pessimistic about the result of the impending division, fearing that ‘the nominal friends of the ministry ... [were] more numerous than the real ones, and he was apprehensive of their falling away in the hour of trial’.42 One Whig backbencher had ‘never [seen] the House so excited and tumultuous’ as it was on 10 May, and Ebrington, in the opinion of Denis Le Marchant, ‘spoke better than I ever heard him’.43 He argued that in a ‘crisis so momentous’ the House must leave the king in no doubt as to its feelings, and he denied that there had been any reaction in public opinion. The address, which was drawn up in ‘far less strong’ language than he personally would have used, implored the king to ‘call to his councils only such persons as will carry into effect, unimpaired in all its essential provisions, that bill which has already passed this House’. It was carried by 288-208, a much smaller majority than had been achieved the previous October, which probably reflected the reluctance of some Whig Members to countenance the creation of peers, but it served an important purpose in helping to consolidate backbench resistance to the formation of an alternative government.44 Amidst rumours that Wellington was about to construct an administration and bring in his own reform measure, there was a meeting of Whig supporters at Brooks’s, 13 May, when Ebrington advocated uncompromising opposition to ‘any bill the new ministers might propose’. He was reportedly dissatisfied with the decision to follow the more cautious line recommended by Althorp and Smith Stanley, and ‘persisted in the intention of combining with Hume to bring the House to some very strong resolution condemnatory of the duke’. On 14 May he was ‘loudly cheered’ when he declared that it would be ‘political immorality’ for the Conservatives to support a bill sponsored by Wellington, and that if it was introduced he would feel free to press for other reforms which he had given up for the sake of the original bill.45 Three days later he welcomed the reinstatement of Grey’s ministry, which he hoped would allay ‘the fearful alarm and excitement which prevailed’ in the country, but it appears that he and Lord Milton would have moved an address to the crown had it not been made known that peers would be created if necessary.46 He divided for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, and paired against increased representation for Scotland, 1 June 1832.

He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July 1832. He was among a group of backbenchers which met the foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, to hear his statement regarding Belgium, 5 Feb. Next day the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Lord Holland, noted that Ebrington ‘expressed his conviction that our friends in the Commons lamented their squeamishness about Russian loan, were anxious to retrieve the false step they had made, and disposed to uphold our Belgian negotiation and treaty and our union with France in a high tone’.47 He spoke and voted in defence of Palmerston’s conduct towards Portugal, 9 Feb., observing that Wellington’s government had been guilty of ‘something more than neglect of the interest of British subjects’. In presenting a petition from Poles resident in London condemning Russia’s oppression of their country, 28 June, he warned that if Russia were ‘allowed to pursue her career of restless ambition without remonstrance or opposition’ there would be no ‘permanent peace’ in Europe. He criticized the Treaty of Vienna for ‘trampling on the rights of ... smaller states’, and trusted that ‘should we unfortunately be obliged to draw the sword’ against Russia it would be in alliance with France, ‘on the side of free principles and free institutions’. He said he was unwilling to support coercive measures to enforce the payment of Irish tithes unless ‘accompanied by some definitive arrangement’ acceptable to the Irish people, 8 Feb.; he was apparently satisfied with Althorp’s subsequent statement.48 He described the position of the Irish church as ‘pregnant with injury to the cause of religion’, 8 Mar., and wished to see it reduced ‘to a condition better proportioned to the wants of the Protestant inhabitants’. In July he was reportedly ‘disgusted’ with the behaviour of Irish Members, who were threatening to oppose the government unless they obtained a radical measure against the Irish church.49 He promised his ‘cordial and unqualified support’ for Smith Stanley’s tithes composition bill, 13 July, warning that if the present ‘combination’ against the payment of tithes succeeded an agitation against rents for absentee landlords would follow. It was necessary to ‘bring back the lower classes from the gross delusion under which they labour’, and he would endorse ‘such measures as may be necessary to preserve ... the first principles of liberty, and the very foundations of the rights of property and of social order’. He repeated his call for reform of the Irish church and favoured the lay appropriation of surplus revenues, as ‘I consider that the church was established for the benefit of the state and ... all its property is liable to be regulated by Parliament’. He presented a Devon petition against the government’s plan for national education in Ireland, 11 May, but expressed his support for it and hoped to see the Irish people ‘living together in charity and brotherly love, showing the fruits of a Christian, a moral and a literary education’. He voted with ministers on military punishments, 16 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He urged Warburton to persevere with his anatomy bill, 11 Apr. He was named to the committee of secrecy on the Bank of England’s charter, 22 May. He presented a ratepayers’ petition against the Exeter improvement bill, 13 June 1832, but his amendment in favour of a wider franchise was defeated by 72-46.

At the general election of 1832 Ebrington was returned unopposed for North Devon as an advocate of ‘Whig principles’.50 In the first reformed Parliament he was ‘the leading Whig backbencher in the Commons’, being ‘reckoned to control over 100 votes’, and he was able to put pressure on Grey’s ministry over such issues as Irish church reform, the reduction of sinecures and the abolition of slavery.51 He sat until he was raised to the peerage in 1839, shortly before his appointment as lord lieutenant of Ireland. He succeeded to his father’s title and estates in 1841.52 He died in September 1861 and was succeeded by his eldest son Hugh Fortescue (1818-1905), Liberal Member for Plymouth, 1841-52, and Marylebone, 1854-9.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. B. Hilton, Age of Atonement, 238-9; J.J. Sack, The Grenvillites, 166, 173-4; E.A. Wasson, Whig Renaissance, 47; R. Brent, Liberal Anglican Politics, 38-39.
  • 2. Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 17 Feb., 16, 23 Mar., 18 May 1820.
  • 3. Add. 51571, Ebrington to Lady Holland, 29 Nov. 1820, 25 Sept. 1821.
  • 4. Alfred, 20 Mar. 1821.
  • 5. Add. 51571, Ebrington to Holland, 16 Jan. 1825.
  • 6. Alfred, 10, 24 Apr. 1821.
  • 7. The Times, 7, 15 Mar., 23 Apr., 10 May 1822.
  • 8. Add. 56545, f. 7.
  • 9. Alfred, 18 Mar., 15 Apr. 1823.
  • 10. The Times, 30 Mar. 1824.
  • 11. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 325, 328-9.
  • 12. Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 15, 22 June 1826.
  • 13. The Times, 29 May, 7, 23 June 1827.
  • 14. Lansdowne mss, Ebrington to Lansdowne, 27 Apr. 1827.
  • 15. LMA, Jersey mss 510/412, Bedford to Lady Jersey, 22 Apr.; Devon RO, Earl Fortescue mss 1262M/FC 83, Ebrington to Bedford, 8, 12 May, Bedford to Ebrington, 10 May 1827.
  • 16. The Times, 8 June 1827.
  • 17. Add. 69364, Ebrington to G. Fortescue, 12 Dec. 1827.
  • 18. Earl Fortescue mss FC 84, Ebrington to Catholic Association, 12 Oct. 1828.
  • 19. Brougham mss, Russell to Brougham, 15 Dec. 1828.
  • 20. NLW ms 2796 D, Lady Williams Wynn to H.W. Wynn, 17 Dec. 1828.
  • 21. Woolmer’s Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 17 Jan. 1829.
  • 22. Greville Mems. i. 255.
  • 23. D. Howell-Thomas, Duncannon, 139.
  • 24. Earl Fortescue mss FC 86, Althorp to Ebrington, 29 Aug. 1830.
  • 25. Ibid. Ebrington to Bedford, 6 July, reply, 7 July; Western Times, 24 July, 7-21 Aug. 1830.
  • 26. Western Times, 21 Aug.; Brougham mss, Ebrington to Brougham, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 27. Earl Fortescue mss FC 86, Russell to Ebrington, 20 Oct. 1830.
  • 28. P. Mandler, Aristocratic Government in Age of Reform, 126.
  • 29. Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 28 Apr., 12 May 1831.
  • 30. Hatherton diary, 25 July, 11 Aug. 1831.
  • 31. Macaulay Letters, ii. 100-1, 106.
  • 32. Hatherton diary, 26 Sept. 1831; Greville Mems. ii. 201, 203; Three Diaries, 133.
  • 33. Besley’s Devon Chron. 1 Oct. 1831; Broughton, Recollections, i. 135-6.
  • 34. Greville Mems. ii. 205-6; Cornw. RO, Hawkins mss 10/2171.
  • 35. Broughton, iv. 138; Hawkins mss 10/2171.
  • 36. Earl Fortescue mss FC 87, Althorp to Ebrington, 3 Nov. 1831.
  • 37. Holland House Diaries, 93-94.
  • 38. Hatherton diary, 2 Feb.; Add. 69364, Sneyd to G. Fortescue, 22 Feb. 1832.
  • 39. Greville Mems. ii. 264-5.
  • 40. Hatherton diary, 29 Feb. 1832.
  • 41. Greville Mems. ii. 283.
  • 42. M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 292-4; Three Diaries, 246.
  • 43. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 10 May 1832; Three Diaries, 247.
  • 44. Greville Mems. ii. 295; Brock, 292-4.
  • 45. Brock, 299-301; Three Diaries, 251-4; Broughton, iv. 224.
  • 46. Wasson, 243-4.
  • 47. Hatherton diary, 5 Feb. 1832; Holland House Diaries, 125.
  • 48. Holland House Diaries, 130.
  • 49. Ibid. 197.
  • 50. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1833), 108.
  • 51. Wasson, 189; Brent, 73-75; Mandler, 152; I. Newbould, Whiggery and Reform, 86-88.
  • 52. The personalty was sworn under £70,000 (PROB 8/234; 11/1952/673).