DIGBY, Hon. Edward (c.1693-1746), of Wandsworth, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1693, 3rd s. of William Digby, M.P., 5th Baron Digby [I], and yr. bro. of Hon. Robert Digby. m. 10 July 1729, Charlotte, da. of Sir Stephen Fox, sis. of Stephen, 1st Earl of Ilchester, and Henry, 1st Baron Holland, 6s. 1da.
Returned unopposed as a Tory in succession to his elder brother Robert, Edward Digby was a frequent opposition speaker. Between 1730 and 1734 his recorded speeches include five against a standing army and hiring foreign troops. He also spoke on the Charitable Corporation affair against Sir Robert Sutton; against Walpole’s proposal to take £500,000 from the sinking fund for current services in 1733; and in support of a place bill in 1734. In 1731 he supported the exemption of Irish yarn from import duty in this country; in 1736 he opposed the mortmain bill; and in 1740 he unsuccessfully attempted to secure the insertion in a bill for pressing seamen of a provision that a man who had been rejected should be given a protection certificate. In addition to these activities he took a leading part in the affairs of the Georgia Society, of which he was the first chairman.1
After Walpole’s fall in 1742 Digby wrote to his friend, John Ward, another moderate Tory:
Now the body of the Tories are suddenly listed under a new general the Duke of Argyll. We want Sir William Wyndham very much as a head of the party; for I think we know not well how to conduct ourselves. We have been very successful in pulling down; but seem not to be very good architects in building up a political fabric.
He supported the motion for a secret committee to inquire into Walpole’s Administration in a lengthy speech, replying to Horace Walpole’s defence of his father. On 8 July he wrote again to Ward:
I was at court on Monday with my Lord Ilchester not to embarrass any of their schemes by any pretensions of my own, therefore I believe the most welcome Member of Parliament there ... I must own that since the miscarriage of the indemnifying bill I have looked upon the proceedings of the secret committee as of little consequence.
On the formation of the new Administration he wrote, 14 July 1742:
Our grand system of politics is at length completed by seating the Earl of Bath in a place of high honour, but more out of fear than love, for they durst not trust him in the House of Commons. He made a full use of the terrors of one part, I fancy I may say the government part, of the Administration, to get what he pleased for his friends, which amount to about half a dozen.
In one of his last letters to Ward he records his disillusionment:
I have been out of humour very much with our politics ever since April or May last, when I began to perceive that the nation was in the way of being sacrificed to the brigues for power and to revenge and resentment in order to come at it.2
He died v.p. 2 Oct. 1746.