BELASYSE, Henry, Lord Belasyse (1743-1802), of Newburgh Hall, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Apr. 1743, o. surv. s. of Thomas, 1st Earl Fauconberg, by Catherine, da. and h. of John Betham of Rowington, Warws. educ. Eton 1757-63. m. (1) 29 May 1766, Charlotte (d. 1 Apr. 1790), da. of Sir Matthew Lamb, 1st Bt. (q.v.), 4 da.; (2) 5 Jan. 1791, Jane, da. of John Cheshyre of Bennington, Herts., s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl Fauconberg 8 Feb. 1774.
Ld. of the bedchamber 1775-d.; ld. lt. N. R. Yorks. 1779-d.
Letters from Belasyse to his father before entering Parliament1 show detachment from party and a high sense of duty. Thus on 24 Dec. 1767, about the Bedfords joining Administration:
That unanimity and a steady perseverance to the public interest and welfare may appear in the measures of those who are to direct is my sincere wish; the only principle that prevails is self-interest, which evidently appears when a man will disapprove of measures when out of place, which very measures when in place he strongly supports.
On the death of Sir Matthew Lamb, 6 Nov. 1768, the dowager Lady Fitzwilliam (whose son, an old school-fellow of Belasyse, was on the grand tour) offered, from regard to the Lamb family, to return Belasyse for Peterborough free of all expense. His attendance at the House was constant and conscientious—he wrote on 20 Apr. 1769:
Last Saturday I sat twelve hours in the House of Commons without moving, with which I was well satisfied, as it gave me the power from the various arguments on both sides of determining clearly by my vote my opinion.
And on 22 July 1769:
The present prospect of home affairs are very disagreeable, wish the time may soon arrive that a great personage's eyes may be opened, and that he may listen to the complaints of his subjects. Then this ferment will subside, as measures will be taken after that in all probability they will restore tranquility and promote respect.
Belasyse voted with Opposition in the divisions on 27 Jan. and 2 Feb. 1769 over Wilkes's libel, but in the (unreliable) list of 3 Feb. is marked as having voted for Wilkes's expulsion. On 15 Apr. and 8 May he voted with Opposition over the seating of Luttrell. In September he helped to promote the Yorkshire petition for a dissolution of Parliament; was one of the deputation who presented it to the King; and on 9 Jan. 1770 spoke for the first time in the House ‘animatedly’ in its favour.2 ‘I am so hearty in the cause’, he wrote to his father, ‘... that I shall not be satisfied till something is done.’
On the debate on the repeal of the Townshend duties, 5 Mar. 1770, his comment to his father shows him still acting with the Rockinghams over America, critical of governmental half-measures, but basically in favour of coercion:
We wished that the duty on teas ... should likewise be taken off ... This the ministry objected to, saying they would leave that duty to show their power of taxing the colonies ... As they leave this duty on tea, the bone of contention still continues. Entre nous my own private opinion is first, to establish by proper means our undoubted right of taxing the colonies, and after they have submitted, then take into consideration what duties are necessary to remove, and what necessary to continue. Their behaviour to this country does not demand a mild, submissive treatment, but a firm determined conduct to compel them to obedience.
Henceforth his attitude became more detached. ‘I flatter myself that those gentlemen whom I oppose now, will not think that I mean always to oppose them’, he said on 15 Mar. 1770.3 ‘If I differ from the ministry I will tell them so in the language of a gentleman. I will tell the Opposition the same.’ On Grenville's bill for trying disputed elections he wrote, 31 Mar. 1770: ‘Being unwilling to be marked as one either approving or disapproving of the bill by my vote, I left the House before the division.’ He praised Burke's speech censuring the conduct of Administration towards America, 7 May 1770, as ‘very fine’, but added:
After attending several hours to this interesting debate I determined to withdraw without giving my vote, for this reason, that I approved of the questions put by Mr. Burke, but much disapproved the language held in support and favour of the Bostonians by him, which he said was the excuse of these questions.
On 22 Nov. 1770 he supported the motion for papers on the dispute with Spain:4
Talked of his being an independent gentleman, without bias, who came to do his duty, but how could he do it, if some information was not given him? ... After dinner he returned to the House, and, in a second speech said that he had changed his mind, that having the papers he thought would be very improper; and therefore voted against having them.
He strongly opposed the royal marriage bill,5 but in the King's list of the division of 9 Feb. 1773 was classed among the friends of the Government, and on 26 Apr. voted with them on renewal of the Wilkes issue.
As a peer he supported the American war, and in 1779 raised a regiment in Yorkshire for home service.
He died 23 Mar. 1802.