SKEFFINGTON (formerly FOSTER), Hon. Thomas Henry (?1772-1843), of Collon, co. Louth
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Family and Educationb. ?1772, 5th but o. surv. s. of John Foster* and Margaretta, da. of Thomas Burgh, MP [I], of Bert, co. Kildare. educ. Eton 1784-9; Trinity Coll. Camb. 15 Apr. 1790, aged 18; L. Inn 1790. m. 20 Nov. 1810, Lady Harriet Skeffington, da. and h. of Chichester, 4th earl of Massereene [I] (whom she suc. 25 Feb. 1816 as s.j. Viscountess Massereene), 5s. 3da. Took name of Skeffington 8 Jan. 1817; suc. mother as 2nd Visct. Ferrard [I] 20 Jan 1824; fa. as 2nd Bar. Oriel [UK] 16 Aug. 1828. d. 18 Jan. 1843.
MP [I] 1792-1800.
Commr. of revenue [I] 1798-99, of treasury [I] 1807-13; PC [I] 17 Oct. 1809.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1808.
Jt. gov. co. Louth 1805-28, gov. 1828-31; sheriff, co. Louth 1811-12, co. Antrim 1818-19.
Col. co. Louth militia 1793-d.; 2nd capt. Collon inf. 1796.
Skeffington, son and heir of the last Irish Speaker John Foster, had given up the family seat at Drogheda in 1812, and although he was willing to serve there as mayor in 1816, he was disinclined to return to Westminster, feeling that his family had been neglected by government and that ‘no man in the kingdom’ had been ‘so ill treated’ as his father in his attempts to secure a United Kingdom peerage. ‘I shall never look to Parliament’, he stated, 11 June 1820, adding that he should prefer to see his first cousin John Leslie Foster* succeed his father as the family’s representative for Louth.1 On his father’s elevation to a United Kingdom peerage the following year, however, Skeffington came forward for the vacancy. Rumours of an opposition came to nothing and he was returned unopposed.2 His cousin Sir Ulysses Burgh* expressed a hope that ‘Thomas will come over and be a regular attender’, and when present, he supported the Liverpool ministry.3
He voted with them against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb. 1822. On 25 Mar. Burgh advised his father that the ‘sooner Thomas returns the better, as we shall have a good deal of business after the Easter holidays’.4 He paired against the bill to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr., explaining that although he believed the ‘peace and tranquillity of Ireland would never be restored’ until the penal laws against Catholics were ‘totally repealed’, the present measure evaded ‘the question of securities’ and had taken the country ‘by surprise’, 10 May. He denounced the Irish grand jury presentments bill (on which he had been appointed a committee member, 3 May) as ‘most destructive to the landlord, most injurious to the tenant, and fatal to the improvement of land in Ireland’, 21 May, and presented two individuals’ petitions against it, 4 July.5 On 31 May he presented one from the landowners of Dundalk against the duties on imported butter and cheese.6 He apprehended that the effects of the Irish tithes leasing bill ‘would be rather to excite than to tranquillize Ireland’, 13 June, voted against inquiry, 19 June 1822, and spoke against the Irish tithes commutation bill, but ‘in so low a tone of voice’ as to be inaudible, 18 Feb. 1823.7 He divided against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., tax reductions, 3 Mar., and repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., but was in the majority for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. In his last known speech he opposed the Irish militia reduction bill and moved unsuccessfully for its postponement, 25 Apr. 1823.8
On the death of his mother in January 1824 Skeffington succeeded to her Irish viscountcy of Ferrard, by which he was disqualified from sitting for an Irish constituency. ‘Between ourselves’, the Irish secretary Goulburn wrote to the home secretary Peel, his ‘advancement ... will be a great gain as in addition to giving us Leslie Foster’s support, it will rid me of Colonel Skeffington’s conversation and advice’.9 He was credited with ‘making very material additions’ to the former residence of his father, whom he succeeded in 1828, when he became sole governor of Louth.10 His attempts to borrow against the family estates and settle his debts, to which were added the costs of his second son Chichester Thomas’s unsuccessful candidature for Louth as a Conservative in 1835, led to a sordid lawsuit with his first son and heir John, 10th Viscount Massereene (1812-63).11 He died in January 1843.