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HOTHAM, Charles (1729-94), of Dalton Hall, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 18 June 1729, 1st s. of Sir Beaumont Hotham 7th Bt., and bro. of Beaumont Hotham. educ. Westminster 1741-5; M. Temple 1742. m. 21 Oct. 1752, Lady Dorothy Hobart, da. of John, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1da. suc. fa. Sept. 1771, and to Thompson estates in Yorks. 1772 and took name of Thompson; resumed name of Hotham 1787. cr. K.B. 15 Jan. 1772.
Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1746, lt. 1750, capt. and lt.-col. 1758; col. army 1762; col. 63 Ft. 1765-8, 15 Ft. 1768-1775; maj.-gen. 1772; ret. 1775.
Groom of the bedchamber 1763-94.
At the general election of 1761, Hotham was in his absence returned for St. Ives on the interest of his brother-in-law, Lord Buckinghamshire, and at his expense. Hotham’s father, writing to him 7 Apr. 1761,1 thought this a right, promising measure, ‘productive of more advantages than ... franking letters.’
Though for the first session or two at least there seems little prospect, luckily for this country, of much altercation or debate, yet there are days of common business which an observing and sensible man may gather good information and materials from.
Hotham himself wrote, 26 Aug. 1782, in his autobiographical notes:
When I first knew the House of Commons, it was a noble school for young men. I wish it were so still, and that it may become so again.
But in fact, the army and the court, and not Parliament and politics, were at the centre of Hotham’s interests. He was therefore greatly disappointed when in 1763, on a change in the office of adjutant-general, he was passed over in favour of Isaac Barré. ‘Lord Bute ... had it conveyed to me that it was not his doing, that he had resisted it to the utmost of his power.’ He offered Hotham the secretaryship to Buckinghamshire’s embassy to Russia, which he refused.
I had been but a few days at Bath, when I received an official notification that the King had appointed me one of the grooms of his bedchamber, and that being the office of all others, I was always the most desirous of, though I never applied for it, I thought it full amends for the mortification I had sustained ... The only unpleasant circumstance was the necessity of my re-election, which cost me above £1200.
A favourite of the King and sincerely devoted to him, Hotham voted as a rule with the court; and on 7 May 1765 spoke for committing the Regency bill. When on the Anstruther election petition, 31 Jan. 1766, he voted against the Rockinghams (who, unjustly, suspected George III of being behind that move), Conway next day mentioned Hotham in his pointed list of ‘those who were particularly remarked on this occasion’.2 He did not vote against the repeal of the Stamp Act.
On 30 Aug. 1765 Hotham had written to Lord Barrington complaining of several officers junior to him having been made colonels while he had only a company in the Guards:
A few days afterwards the King sent for me into the closet and said ‘I have only sent for you, Colonel Hotham, that I might have the pleasure of wishing you joy of being colonel of the 63rd Regiment. I have long wished for an opportunity of showing my regard for you, and I do assure you I never did anything that gave me more pleasure.’
Hotham adds that Rockingham and Grafton ‘fairly owned’ to him that ‘they had exerted all their strength in favour of Lord Cornwallis’.
On 25 June 1766 Buckinghamshire wrote to Hotham that he had asked his agent to send Hotham ‘the state of affairs at St. Ives’.
The expense of my parliamentary interest has been so great as to make it necessary for me to determine for the future never in any shape whatsoever to engage myself upon any other occasion. Before however I offer the seat at St. Ives to any other person upon the terms of their furnishing the money, I cannot omit giving you the refusal of it.
Hotham replied that not having been able ‘to answer the common expenses of an election without a contest, so much less certainly am I able to think of it with the prospect of an opposition’. He was therefore not going to stand for St. Ives again.
I gave the King my reasons for it, which he entered so much into, and so entirely approved of, that my mind was quite at ease on that subject.
When Hotham’s father succeeded as 7th Baronet, October 1767, and Hotham settled at Dalton Hall, about 4 miles from Beverley, he was invited to stand there at the forthcoming general election.
The same motive produced the same resolution, being besides by no means in love with the House of Commons, though perhaps my father might, and I believe would have assisted me for that particular borough our family had so often represented, had I been eager about it. But I did not think it fair to wish him to be at such an expense, before he was well in possession of his estate. I rather bent my thought to improving it, and rescuing the place from ruin.
Before Hotham left the House two more votes of his are recorded: with the Government on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767; but against them on Savile’s nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768—a signal act of independence on the part of one so close to the King.
Out of Parliament, he busied himself with the house at Dalton which he built and furnished at a cost of £30,000; with enclosures on his estates, and other improvements.
In addition to all this I found myself under the disagreeable necessity of engaging in an election at Beverley. My friends, and the world were incessantly sounding in my ears that it depended upon me to re-establish the family interest there ... The whole of the gentlemen of the county, and all the principal inhabitants of the town, with few exceptions, urged me to stand in the gap between them and strangers. So that I saw I must either devote myself to the trial, or lie under the imputation of want of spirit in having deprived the family as it would have been said (indeed was said) of that borough. And as an accidental piece of business the corporation engaged me in, brought it forward, almost whether I would or not.
The business here referred to concerned proposed quays on the River Hull which the burgesses and corporation feared might expose their lands to flooding. They asked Hotham to intervene on their behalf, and he went to see Lord North and Grey Cooper, but in a letter of 3 Mar. 1774 remarked that such intervention had best come from their Members—and he expressed regret that he could not speak as such. The corporation having replied how sensible they would be of the credit and honour of being represented by him, he addressed them in form on the subject, 14 Mar. On 25 Mar. three leading burgesses, but not the mayor, wrote to him:
We, as individuals ... beg leave to assure you of our fidelity and attachment to your interest, but at the same time, it is highly necessary to inform you, as our borough corporate consists of 26 members, a great majority of whom are dependent upon trade and business, it will not be in our power to prevail on them to enter into any engagement of this kind so long beforehand, as they know not at present, how their connexions and interests may then be affected.
And here is the story of the election as told by Hotham in his autobiographical memoranda:
The Parliament being dissolved that year, the election went on. Sir James Pennyman, Mr. Tuffnell ... and I were the candidates. The Bar Interest, as it is called, secured Sir James, so that the struggle was between Mr. T. and me. He had all the rabble. I, as I said before, the whole of the respectable people, almost to a man. His friends, I must do them the justice to say, behaved always to me with the greatest respect, and fairly told me, their opposition was not owing to any disregard to me personally, much otherwise. But that unless they united against me, that is, said they, against the gentlemen, they never should have any chance for a third man. Their numbers, as I always foresaw, prevailed. And to my infinite satisfaction gave me a fair excuse to free myself of all trouble on that score for the rest of my life. It cost me near £1000. But I thought it therefore money well bestowed.
And here, I cannot help offering it as my most serious and earnest advice to those who shall succeed me, to suffer no consideration to induce them to be drawn in to become representatives of Beverley or Scarborough. They are both too near their places of residence, and will entail upon them a slavery and expense that will know no end. If they will be in Parliament, which perhaps it may be wiser never to think of, it should be much farther from home.
In 1775 Hotham retired from the army. He saw no chance of being employed in America—‘three younger general officers than me, Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne being appointed on that staff’. He did not expect war in Europe, and did not want to draw emoluments and stand in the way of other officers’ promotion while himself unemployed. Lastly, ‘the first great requisite of a soldier is health’—‘with a broken constitution, and a delicate mind’ he obtained the King’s permission to resign his regiment. Much pressed by the King in 1776 to become sub-governor to the Prince of Wales, he declined the post (which he secured however for his younger brother George).
On 22 Aug. 1780, Lord North wrote to Hotham:
When I sent to you, I had received intelligence from Beverley that the electors there were not well pleased with their present Members, and as I have no great reason to be more pleased with them than the electors, I wished to know whether it would be agreeable to you to declare yourself a candidate upon that opening, as I suppose that no man in Great Britain is so likely to succeed there as you are.
Hotham replied, 27 Aug.:
After what passed at the last election I could not stoop to solicit the favours of a set of people who might have recollected with some degree of gratitude the very long connection ... between them and my predecessors.
He similarly refused to stand when invited by a number of Beverley burgesses.
He died 25 Jan. 1794.