FOLEY, Thomas (1742-93).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



18 May 1767 - 1774
1774 - 18 Nov. 1777

Family and Education

b. 24 June 1742, 1st s. of Thomas Foley (d. 1777), and bro. of Andrew and Edward. educ. Westminster 1753; Magdalen, Oxf. 1759. m. 20 Mar. 1776, Lady Harriet Stanhope, da. of William, 2nd Earl of Harrington 2s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Foley 18 Nov. 1777.

Offices Held

Jt. postmaster gen. Apr.-Dec. 1783.


Foley was returned unopposed for Herefordshire in 1767, and again at the general election of 1768. From 1768 to 1772 he voted with Opposition, appearing in eight out of eleven division lists for that period. In the three divisions for which lists are extant, 1772-4, he did not vote; and Robinson in 1774 classed him as ‘hopeful’.

He did not stand for Herefordshire in 1774 but was returned for the family borough of Droitwich. On 22 Feb. 1775, on Wilkes’s renewal of the Middlesex question, and on 26 Oct. 1775, on the Address, he voted against the court. According to Walpole1 he wished to stand for Herefordshire at the by-election following his father’s elevation to the peerage, but North refused him the Chiltern Hundreds. This seems probable, since the King hoped that Thomas Harley would succeed to the vacant seat;2 but the rest of Walpole’s story—that Foley in order to vacate his seat asked Lord Harrington to appoint him his regimental agent, and that North threatened if this were done to dismiss Harrington from his regiment—lacks confirmation.

Foley was a close friend of Charles James Fox, a gambler, and a racing man. Mrs. Delany wrote in 1773:3 ‘Mr. T. Foley has lost at Newmarket etc. fifty thousand pounds. He has now entered into an agreement with his father, that if he will pay his debts he will entirely leave off gambling.’ But in Nov. 1775 George Selwyn wrote to Lord Carlisle:4 ‘Old Foley pays another £70,000 of debt, and settles, I hear today, £4,000 in present upon his son, and £6,000 a year more at his death.’ And according to Walpole (to Mann, 11 Aug. 1776), Foley and his brother Edward were faced with the payment of £18,000 per annum interest on their debts.

Lord Foley in his will authorized his trustees to pay a sum not exceeding £6000 per annum for the maintenance of his two eldest sons. The remainder of the income from the family estates was to be used for the payment of their debts. When these had been settled, the Witley estate (worth £11,500 a year) was to go to Thomas, and Stoke Edith (worth £3500 a year) to Edward. Thomas and Edward promoted a private bill to enable the estates to be sold for the payment of their debts. The judges who were ordered to report on the bill estimated that these amounted to £220,000, and under the terms of the will would be repaid in 27 years. In spite of intense lobbying by the two elder Foleys, the Lords rejected the bill.5

Thomas Foley died 2 July 1793.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Last Jnls. i. 508-9.
  • 2. Fortescue, iii. 360.
  • 3. Autobiog. and Corresp. (ser. 2), i. 492-3.
  • 4. HMC Carlisle, 304.
  • 5. Walpole, Last Jnls. ii. 133-135; LJ, xxxv. 341-4, 466-9.