KNOX, Hon. Thomas (1786-1858), of Barham House, Elstree, Herts.
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Family and Educationb. 19 Apr. 1786, 1st s. of Hon. Thomas Knox†, 2nd Visct. Northland [I] (later 1st earl of Ranfurly [I]), and Hon. Diana Jane Pery, da. and coh. of Edmund Sexton, 1st Visct. Pery [I]; bro. of Hon. John Henry Knox* and Hon. John James Knox*. educ. Harrow 1797; St. John’s, Camb. 1803. m. 28 Feb. 1815, Mary Juliana, da. of Hon. and Most Rev. William Stuart, abp. of Armagh, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. styled Visct. Northland 1831-40; suc. fa. as 2nd earl of Ranfurly [I] and 2nd Bar. Ranfurly [UK] 26 Apr. 1840. d. 21 Mar. 1858.
1st capt. Dungannon inf. 1807.
Like his father, who joined Brooks’s in July 1807, Knox entered Westminster politics as a supporter of Lord Grenville. In March 1809 he was presented at court and put up for Brooks’s by the duke of Devonshire. The family were not thought to be especially loyal to the crown, despite their rich pickings from government. He soon returned to Ireland and, according to Mrs. Spencer Stanhope, was
heartily glad to get from his mamma’s introductions. When he was introduced to the duke of Gloucester, H.R.H. inquired what profession he was brought up to, and at the reply, exclaimed, ‘What, no profession!’ Mrs. Knox, who had presented him as an eldest son, coloured.1
In January 1810 he went with John Spencer Stanhope to the Peninsula, but after a few months in Portugal he abandoned his companion, who recorded that ‘to quarrel with Knox was impossible, for there lives not a man of a more amiable or kind hearted disposition’.2 He replaced his father as Member for Tyrone at the general election of 1812, and in 1818 was returned for Dungannon, where he was a burgess, by his father, who later that year succeeded as 2nd Viscount Northland. A member of the Grenvillite ‘third party’, he continued to act sporadically with the opposition to Lord Liverpool’s government, but he no longer voted in favour of the Catholics and at least once served on the committee of the Grand Orange Lodge.3
He was returned unopposed for Dungannon in 1820 and at the following two general elections. His only known vote that year was for inquiry into Anglo-Irish trade, 14 June. He divided in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., against Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 4 June 1821. He followed the duke of Buckingham’s lead in adhering to administration at the start of 1822 and was thereafter reckoned an inflexible ministerialist in the Commons, where he sat on several Irish select committees.4 He divided against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., and alteration of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. He voted against inquiries into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and for the Irish insurrection, 14 June 1824, and unlawful societies bills, 15, 25 Feb. 1825. Perhaps now satisfied with the proposed securities, he for the first time since 1813 voted for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He presented anti-slavery petitions from Dungannon, 7 Apr., and elsewhere, 10, 20 Apr. 1826.5 He voted against reforming the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr., and curbing electoral bribery, 26 May. That spring the premier again approached George IV about the promise of a United Kingdom peerage for Northland, which had been outstanding since the early 1820s. Liverpool claimed, of Grenville, that ‘it was the only personal engagement at the close of his public life, about which he felt a deep interest and which really pressed upon his mind’. On 6 July 1826 Northland was given the barony of Ranfurly, the name of the family’s original Renfrewshire property.6
Knox divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. It was probably he, not his brother John Henry, now Member for Newry, who was appointed to the select committee on the corporation of Northampton, 21 Feb., and who voted against the Coventry magistracy bill, 18 June 1827. Having brought up pro-Catholic petitions, including one from Drumglass parish, in which his constituency lay, 22 Feb., he voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He complained about Waithman’s comment that Members were slavish clients of their patrons, 27 June, unless this intervention was by his brother, whom he joined in voting with the Wellington ministry against the reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. Listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as a possible mover or seconder of the address at the start of the 1829 session, he was considered likely to side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation.7 He presented the favourable petition from the Catholics of Tyrone, 18 Mar., and voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar.; but he divided against allowing Daniel O’Connell to take his seat without swearing the oath of supremacy, 18 May 1829. He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. Either he or John Henry divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., and the Irish coal duties, 13 May. He voted against reducing the grant for South American missions, 7 June, when he apparently paired against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, but for Knatchbull’s amendment to prohibit the sale of beer for on-consumption, 21 June. Listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, he divided in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Three weeks later he resigned his seat in favour of his brother John James, who was perhaps thought more likely to support the Grey administration.
Knox’s father, who voted by proxy for reform in the Lords, was rewarded with the Irish earldom of Ranfurly in September 1831. It was thus under the courtesy title of Viscount Northland that Knox, a Conservative, represented Dungannon as a stopgap, 1837-8. On Ranfurly’s death in 1840 he succeeded to his titles and properties, including the bulk of personal wealth sworn under £30,000 in Ireland and £40,000 in England.8 Described in 1841 by a Dungannon Presbyterian minister as having been ‘always a rank Tory’, he failed to gain an appointment on Peel’s accession to power that year.9 He died in March 1858 at his Irish seat, which since the 1840s had been known as Dungannon Park. He presumably left his estate to his eldest son, Thomas (b. 1816), Conservative Member for Dungannon, 1838-51.