PONSONBY, Hon. George (?1773-1863), of Woolbeding, Suss.
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Family and Educationb. ?1773, 4th s. of William Brabazon Ponsonby†, 1st Bar. Ponsonby [I] (d. 1806), of Bishop’s Court, co. Kildare and Hon. Louisa Molesworth, da. of Richard, 3rd Visct. Molesworth [I]; bro. of Hon. Frederick Ponsonby†, John Brabazon Ponsonby† and Hon. William Ponsonby†. educ. Trinity, Dublin 7 Mar. 1791, aged 18; King’s Inns 10 Dec. 1796, aged 23; L. Inn 1794, called [I] 1797. m. (1) 7 Apr. 1807, Sarah (d. 18 July 1808), da. of John Jacob Gledstanes of Annesgift, co. Tipperary, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 11 June 1812, Diana Juliana Margaretta, da. of Hon. Edward Bouverie† of Delapré Abbey, Northants., 1s. d.v.p. 1da. d. 5 June 1863.
MP [I] 1796-8.
Ld. of treasury Nov. 1830-Nov. 1834.
Ponsonby, who had joined Brooks’s, sponsored by Lord William Russell*, 7 June 1806, had unsuccessfully attempted to re-enter Parliament for county Cork in 1818 with the assistance of his brother-in-law Earl Grey and the 6th duke of Devonshire.1 At the 1826 general election he was returned unopposed for Youghal, where Devonshire had recently regained control.2 A regular but mostly silent attender, he acted steadily with his Whig friends. He presented Youghal petitions against alteration of the corn laws, 28 Feb., and for Catholic claims, 26 Feb. 1827, 15 Apr. 1828, for which he voted, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828.3 He was in the minorities for information on the Barrackpoor mutiny, 22 Mar., and the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar. 1827. He divided for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He voted for inquiry into chancery delays, 5 Apr., and was in the minority of 37 for terminating its jurisdiction over bankruptcy, 22 May. He divided for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. He brought up a petition for repeal of the Test Acts and voted accordingly, 26 Feb. 1828. He divided against the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 6 June, and in the minority of 21 against the Irish lessors bill, 12 June 1828. He voted for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and presented a favourable constituency petition, 26 Mar. 1829. He had been listed by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, as being ‘opposed to securities’, but on 26 Mar. he announced that he was ‘prepared to give up’ his ‘strong objections’ to the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders as it was ‘part of the great measure for the conciliation and pacification of Ireland’. That day he presented but dissented from two hostile petitions. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829, 11 Feb. 1830, and for the issue of a new writ, 2 June 1829. He divided to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unimpeded, 18 May 1829. In October 1829 the Ultra leader Sir Richard Vyvyan* numbered him among those who had voted in favour of emancipation whose attitude towards a putative coalition government was ‘unknown’. On 22 Feb. 1830 he presented a petition from Youghal boat owners in support of the Irish fishing bounties. He divided for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and parliamentary reform, 28 May. He voted regularly with the revived Whig opposition for economy and reduced taxation from March. He spoke in favour of inquiry into the state of Newfoundland, 11 May, when he voted for abolition of the Irish viceroyalty. He presented petitions from Youghal merchants against the East India Company’s monopoly and Irish stamp duty increases, 12 May. He divided for repeal of the Irish coal duties next day. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He divided for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June (as a pair), 20 July. He presented and endorsed a Youghal petition against an increase of Irish spirit duties, which he believed would promote ‘illicit distillation’, 15 June. He divided against the libel law amendment bill, 6 July 1830.
At the 1830 general election he was returned for Youghal after a brief contest.4 He presented and endorsed constituency petitions for the abolition of slavery, 10 Nov. 1830, 30 Mar. 1831. He was of course listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘foes’, and he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. On Grey’s accession to power he was appointed a lord of the treasury and at the ensuing by-election was returned unopposed in absentia.5 Speaking in defence of the Union, 11 Dec. he asserted that there was ‘no place on the face of the earth in which greater abuses existed than in Ireland under its own Parliament’ and berated Irish Members for complaining that Parliament ‘does no good’, while the remedy for absenteeism, the cause of the ‘misery which prevails’, lay in their own hands. He brought up a petition against repeal, 22 Dec. 1830, and a constituency one for abolition of the window duties, 30 Mar. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he was returned unopposed for Youghal on the ‘same principles’, having also started for county Londonderry, where it was said that he would have given the Tory candidate ‘serious trouble’ had he continued.6 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and gave steady support to its detailed provisions, though he was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July. He divided for its passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted against disqualification of the Dublin election committee, 29 July, and with his colleagues on the controversy, 23 Aug. He defended the operation of the game laws, insisting that a ‘gentleman’ would ‘give his name and address at once’ if apprehended, 8 Aug. He presented petitions from the Youghal Catholics against the grant to the Kildare Place Society, and the inhabitants for abolition of the death penalty for crimes against property, 9 Aug. On 31 Aug. he justified the expense of publishing Irish statutes in newspapers. He voted against the issue of the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept. 1831.
Ponsonby voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, was a majority teller for going into committee on it, 20 Feb. 1832, and again gave steady support to its details. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar., and for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, against an increase in the Scottish county representation, 1 June, and an amendment to prevent the dismemberment of Perthshire, 15 June. He divided for the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. He voted with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. In a heated exchange with Hunt, 2 Apr., he denied that as chairman of the mutiny bill committee he had given an assurance that it would contain no clause relating to corporal punishment. He complained that insufficient notice had been given to his family and those ‘with an interest’ in the King’s County assizes bill, 18 Apr., condemned the transfer of the assizes from Phillipstown to Tullamore, which had already been rejected by the Irish Parliament and would ‘totally ruin an already poor town’, and moved for a six month postponement but declined to divide, 23 May. He denied that his opposition was ‘influenced by private considerations’, 30 May, and was a teller for the minority of eight against the bill, which he contended violated Acts of 1570 and 1692, 1 June. He voted for the Liverpool disfranchisement bill, 23 May, and coroners’ inquests to be made public, 20 June. He divided for the Irish tithes bill, 13 July, 1 Aug., and defended a military presence at an anti-tithes meeting at Blarney, county Cork, where the troops ‘were merely at their station, the garrison being there’, 2 Aug. 1832.
At the 1832 general election he abandoned Youghal, where it was anticipated that he would be ‘turned out’ by a Repealer, and offered unsuccessfully for Dublin University, rejecting Protestant assertions that he and his Liberal partner were ‘foes’ of the established church, which he argued required reform to ‘conserve it’, and stressing his opposition to repeal.7 He never stood again and died at Woolbeding in June 1863. He was survived by his second wife, sole executrix and beneficiary of his will of 15 Apr. 1858, and his daughter Diana, who in 1842 had married Devonshire’s nephew Edward Granville George Howard (1809-80), later 1st Baron Lanerton.8
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 862-3.
- 2. Cork Constitution, 8, 20 June; Dublin Evening Post, 10, 20 June 1826; L. Proudfoot, Urban Patronage, 284.
- 3. The Times, 27 Feb. 1827.
- 4. Dublin Evening Post, 12 Aug., Cork Constitution, 17 Aug. 1830.
- 5. Cork Constitution, 9 Dec. 1830.
- 6. Belfast News Letter, 10 May; Cork Constitution, 10 May 1831.
- 7. Wellington mss WP1/123910; Dublin Evening Post, 22 Nov., 1 Dec. 1832.
- 8. Gent. Mag. (1863), ii. 112.