HART, George Vaughan (1752-1832), of Kilderry House, co. Donegal
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Family and Educationb. 1752, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Rev. Edward Hart (d. 1793), rect. of Desertegny, co. Donegal, and Elizabeth, da. of Rev. John Ramsay, rect. of Stranorlar, co. Donegal. m. 22 July 1792, Charlotte, da. of John Ellerker of Ellerker, Yorks., 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (3 d.v.p.). suc. uncle Henry to Kilderry 1790; e. bro. John to Ballynagard, co. Londonderry 1816. d. 14 June 1832.
Ensign 46 Ft. 1775, lt. 1777, capt. lt. 1779; capt. 55 Ft. 1779; maj. 75 Ft. 1787, lt.-col. 1795, col. 1798; maj.-gen. 1805; lt.-gen. 1811; gen. 1825.
Dep. paymaster-gen. of the forces, Bombay 1788-90, Madras 1791-2, India 1792-5.
Gov. Londonderry and Culmore 1820-d.
Lieutenant-General Hart, who had made money in India and inherited valuable estates in his native county, represented Donegal from 1812 with the backing of the 1st marquess of Abercorn and the Castle interest. Emulating his ancestor Henry Hart (d. 1623), whose family had originally come from the West country, he was appointed governor of Londonderry and Culmore Fort at a salary of over £300 in January 1820 and continued to seek government patronage.1 A steady supporter of the Liverpool administration, he was again returned for Donegal at the general election that spring, when he condemned the harsh enforcement of the Irish distillery laws for causing local distress.2 He rode this hobby horse in the Commons, 7 June, presented the Templemore petition against the Illicit Distillation Act, 21 June, and criticized the chancellor’s proposals on the subject, 7, 14, 17, 18 July.3 He voted for a select committee on the Union duties, 14 June, and urged conciliation not augmented military forces as the best means of pacifying Ireland, 29 June 1820.
Hart, who divided against condemning ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 20 Apr. 1822. He again favoured inquiry into Anglo-Irish trade, 30 Apr., and supported reducing the Irish window duties, 16 May, but he withdrew his bill to allow commissioners of excise to licence small Irish stills on receiving assurances from ministers, 13 June, and sided with them against Hume’s motion for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821, and Brougham’s for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb. 1822.4 He could not resist blaming the distillery laws for the continuing unrest in his comments on the Irish constables and insurrections bills, 7 June, 15 July.5 Crossing from Ireland for the forthcoming parliamentary session, 24 Dec. 1822, he was the victim of what he described as a ‘gross, malignant and on my part totally unprovoked assault’, during which he was knocked down senseless by a savage punch to the back of his neck. This was apparently perpetrated by the employees of the Bangor ferry, ‘or their accomplices’, who had tried to extort excessive fares from him and his fellow passengers.6
He testified to the good conduct of the Irish yeomanry, 10 Mar., when, as on the 13th and 18th, he voted against tax reductions, though he commented that a higher duty on barilla would benefit the North of Ireland on bringing up a petition from the kelp manufacturers of Donegal to this effect, 13 June 1823.7 He was listed in minorities for information on the plot to murder the Irish lord lieutenant, 24 Mar., and against the Irish tithes composition bill, 16 June. He was in the ministerial minority against the Scottish juries bill, 20 June, but divided for the introduction of trial by jury in New South Wales, 7 July 1823. He voted against inquiry into the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June, and, having divided for the Irish insurrection bill on the 14th, he suggested that Irish towns be enclosed with walls so that the well-disposed would be able to prosecute agrarian troublemakers without fear of retribution, 18 June 1824. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. Promoted a full general later in May, he divided for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 2, 6 June 1825. He supported inquiry into Scottish and Irish promissory notes, 16 Mar., and voted for receiving the report on the salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., and against alteration of the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr. 1826.8
Promising to continue his exertions on behalf of his constituents, Hart was again returned for Donegal at the general election of 1826 and in October he spoke at the Belfast dinner in honour of the leading anti-Catholic Lord George Beresford*, who had been defeated in county Waterford.9 He signed the Protestant petition from the Irish noblemen and gentlemen early the following year and, having presented hostile petitions from his own county, 26 Feb., 2, 13 Mar., he voted in this sense, 6 Mar. 1827.10 He was granted three weeks’ leave, 4 May 1827, on account of the illness of his wife, who died on the 20th. Despite advocating the payment of Catholic clergy, if only as a means of preventing improvident and fertile marriages, 19 Feb., Hart, who sided with the Wellington government against inquiry into chancery administration on 24 Apr., again divided against Catholic claims, 12 May 1828. Illness prevented him attending the meeting that autumn for the establishment of a Brunswick Club in Donegal, but he became a vice-president of the one in Londonderry.11 Listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as ‘opposed to the principle’ of emancipation, he voted, 6 Mar., presented Donegal petitions, 11, 16 Mar., and paired against it, 27, 30 Mar. 1829. He divided against allowing Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unimpeded, 18 May 1829, and Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May 1830. He voted against amendments to the Galway franchise bill, 24 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, and supported his county’s petition against the increased Irish spirit duties, 14 June 1830, when he brought up and endorsed Londonderry corporation’s petition to the same effect.
Brushing aside rumours that he would retire at the dissolution in 1830, he issued a circular to his supporters in which he dwelt on his 18 years’ tenure of the representation as ‘a connection which has become dearer to me in proportion to its continuance and which it is impossible for me voluntarily to abandon’.12 He was present in Londonderry to witness his eldest son John’s unsuccessful attempt to win the borough seat as an independent at the general election, when he was returned unopposed for the last time for Donegal.13 He was listed by ministers among their ‘friends’ and duly divided with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar. 1831, but John Hart, who unsuccessfully stood for Derry as an avowed reformer at a by-election the following month, insisted that his father would have voted for it had he not been unwell.14 Hart himself, who in his last known speech urged a grant of money to Ireland to provide employment and relieve distress, 30 Mar., evidently favoured only a moderate degree of reform, and even attended a meeting of Irish Members who had been in the minority on the 22nd in order to become better informed. Following his vote for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, his younger son and namesake informed John that their father, who ‘merely wishes the Members to be removed from the lesser to the more popular towns’, had done so because he feared that ‘if the English Members alone were to be reduced, and the Irish remain as they are ... [the dominant] anti-Union party would become fearfully strong’.15
Professing an ‘ardent affection’ for his county, Hart initially offered again for Donegal at the general election of 1831, when John failed to win a seat for county Londonderry. However, with his own popularity doubtful (one radical opponent described him as ‘universally scouted’), he withdrew on the pretext of old age, rather than risk a contest with two genuine reformers.16 Considered a brave soldier, faithful Member and loving paterfamilias, Hart, who was said to have refused a baronetcy, died at Kilderry in June 1832.17 By his will, dated 12 Jan. 1832, he left the bulk of his estates and personal wealth sworn under £13,000 in Ireland to John Hart (1798-1838), who issued an address to the freeholders of Donegal at the general election in December 1834, but never sat in Parliament. The will stipulated that his eldest son could only succeed if he had not married the daughter of a Westminster tailor named James Fisher, as this ‘connection would disgrace himself and his family’; but, almost certainly because no such marriage had taken place (though he acknowledged a natural son), Kilderry and other properties were inherited by him.18
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 161-2; Add. 40296, ff. 28-29; 40381, f. 133.
- 2. Black Bk. (1823), 162; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 467; Enniskillen Chron. 6 Apr. 1820.
- 3. The Times, 22 June, 8, 15, 18, 19 July 1820.
- 4. Ibid. 17 May, 14 June 1821.
- 5. Ibid. 8 June 1822.
- 6. Add. 40354, f. 10.
- 7. The Times, 14 June 1823.
- 8. Ibid. 17 Mar. 1826.
- 9. Strabane Morning Post, 13 June, 4 July; Belfast Commercial Chron. 17 July, 16 Oct. 1826.
- 10. Add. 40392, f. 5; The Times, 27 Feb., 3, 14 Mar. 1827.
- 11. Belfast News Letter, 30 Sept.; Enniskillen Chron. 2 Oct. 1828.
- 12. PRO NI, Hart mss D3077/C/8/11; Belfast News Letter, 27 July 1830.
- 13. Belfast Guardian, 13 Aug.; Enniskillen Chron. 26 Aug. 1830.
- 14. Belfast Guardian, 5 Apr. 1831.
- 15. Hart mss H/2/5, 13.
- 16. Dublin Evening Post, 26 Apr., 5 May; Belfast News Letter, 29 Apr., 10 May 1831; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/33B/3.
- 17. H.T. Hart, Fam. Hist. of Hart of Donegal, 48; Londonderry Sentinel, 16 June 1832; Gent. Mag. (1832), ii. 180-1; DNB; Oxford DNB.
- 18. Londonderry Sentinel, 27 Dec. 1834; Hart mss F/16/21; H/2/5; PROB 11/1809/763; IR26/1294/769; Hart, 114-16. This corrects the erroneous statement that John Hart was so disinherited in HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 162.