FITZHERBERT, Thomas (?1746-1822), of Stubbington Lodge, Portsea, Hants.; later of Pitt Place, Epsom, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. ?1746. m. 26 Nov. 1789, Anna, da. of Rev. Robert Pye, and niece of Sir Thomas Alston, 5th Bt.
Fitzherbert’s antecedents are unknown, but an account of his later career given by the English Chronicle in 1780 or 1781 states that twelve years before he was ‘measuring coals to the labourers in the dock-yard at Portsmouth at thirteen pence a bushel’, and adds that during the contest for Portsmouth at the general election of 1774 he took such an active part on behalf of the Admiralty candidates ‘as ... to attract the notice of the first lord of the Admiralty [Lord Sandwich], who from that time, honoured him with his patronage and gave him a promise of the first good thing that became vacant’. Between 1775 and 1782 he obtained contracts for supplying waggons for the Army in America, ironwork for gun-carriages, musket stocks, small-arms and gunpowder, and for the hire of horses employed on the fortifications at Portsmouth.1
Before the general election of 1780 Fitzherbert seems to have informed John Robinson, the secretary of the Treasury, that he was anxious for a seat and was willing to pay £3,000;2 at Robinson’s suggestion he stood for the expensive and corrupt borough of Arundel, where he was returned after a contest. In Parliament he supported North’s Administration till the end. During the debate of 23 Jan. 1782 on Fox’s motion for an inquiry into the conduct of Lord Sandwich, Fitzherbert declared that British weakness at sea did not arise ‘from a neglect in the particular officers, but ... was owing to the want of shipwrights’. He spoke from his experience at Portsmouth,
because he lived in its neighbourhood and had more frequent occasion to visit its dockyard than any other; and although he was well aware of the evil tendency of raising the price of wages in this country, yet he could not but be of opinion that sufficient encouragement was not given to old and deserving shipwrights.3
Fitzherbert voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783. His contract for supplying horses having expired, it was not renewed by Shelburne’s Administration, and when on 10 Mar. 1783 their estimates showed a considerably decreased payment to the new contractor, Fitzherbert, claiming this was not feasible,
gave a succinct and clear detail of the first contract ... from the year 1757 to the expiration of that he held, and showed that it had been by no means so lucrative as the public had been given to imagine, but that, on the contrary, it had been attended with great inconvenience and great risk.4
Fitzherbert did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and in both Robinson’s list of January 1784, and Stockdale’s of 19 Mar. he was described as absent.
At the general election of 1784 Fitzherbert was returned unopposed for Arundel. In May Adam counted him as an Administration supporter, but on 21 July 1784 he attacked the Government’s fortifications bill, and on 21 Feb. 1785, during the debate on the Westminster scrutiny, he declared that an ‘end should be put to so shameful, so aggressive and so arbitrary a measure ... the minister talking of a reform in the representation whilst such a glaring absurdity as this was suffered to exist was idle in the extreme’.5 Fitzherbert voted against Pitt’s Irish proposals, 13 May 1785; against Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786, and with the Opposition over the Regency, 1788-9. He did not stand again for Arundel in 1790.
Fitzherbert died 30 Jan. 1822, aged 75.