MONTAGU, John, Visct. Hinchingbrooke (1744-1814).
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Family and Education
b. 26 Jan. 1744, 1st surv. s. of John, 4th Earl of Sandwich, by Dorothy, da. and coh. of Charles, 1st Visct. Fane [I]; bro. of Hon. William Augustus Montagu. educ. Eton 1753-8. m. (1) 1 Mar. 1766, Lady Elizabeth Montagu (d. 1 July 1768), da. and h. of George, 2nd Earl of Halifax, 1s. 1da.; (2) 25 Apr. 1772, Lady Mary Powlett (d. 30 Mar. 1779), da. and coh. of Harry, 6th Duke of Bolton, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 30 Apr. 1792.
Cornet 15 Lt. Drag. 1759; lt. and capt. 3 Ft. Gds. 1761; ret. 1767.
Vice-chamberlain of the Household Feb. 1771-Mar. 1782; P.C. 6 Feb. 1771; master of the buckhounds May 1783-1806; joint postmaster gen. 1807- d.
Sandwich, when asking for Newcastle’s interposition to obtain a lieutenancy in the guards for Hinchingbrooke, wrote on 29 Oct. 1761: ‘my son has in a very early part of life endeavoured to put himself in the most active scene of service, and to do everything he can to qualify him for a profession he means to adhere to.’1 He was still on active service in Germany in the summer of 1762.2 On a vacancy occurring at Brackley very soon after Hinchingbrooke had come of age, its patron, the Duke of Bridgwater, a nephew and follower of the Duke of Bedford, returned him unopposed. But as early as November 1765, at a county meeting to fill a vacancy for Huntingdonshire, Sandwich announced that Hinchingbrooke would be a candidate at the next general election; and in 1768 he was returned after a hard fought election, entirely managed by his father. Also his later elections (none carried to a poll) were managed by Sandwich: even in 1788 when Lord Carysfort’s candidature threatened a contest, Sandwich still directed Hinchingbrooke’s campaign with great energy and care.
In the House Hinchingbrooke adhered to his father’s line; voted against the Rockinghams on the repeal of the Stamp Act, and against the Chatham Administration over the land tax; but with the court after the Bedfords had rejoined it. Also under the next two Administrations he followed his father, voting against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and for Fox’s East India bill. As a speaker in the House he hardly counted. A personal altercation with Henry Seymour, half-brother of Sandwich who had passed into Opposition, 27 Mar. 1771; moving the Address on 21 Jan. 1772; two interventions on personal points; and two formal announcements as vice-chamberlain of the Household, make up his share in debate, 1765-90.3
Equally dim is Hinchingbrooke’s official career. There was considerable delay in placing him; and after this, he, the son and heir of one of the chief ministers, remained eleven years in a subordinate court office. But on two occasions when the question of employment for Hinchingbrooke arose, there was friction between him and his father. When Sandwich, having at the end of 1767 accepted the Post Office, a place admittedly below his rank as statesman, became restive, his friends, trying to assuage him, talked also of a place for Hinchingbrooke. Thus Lord Weymouth (who instead of Sandwich had been appointed secretary of state) wrote to him on 16 Sept. 1768:4
I have been asked [presumably by Grafton] whether Lord Hinchingbrooke’s change of situation might not alter his ideas of the military line, or whether a county election might not be a bar to his acceptance of a civil office? If you have no objection to letting me know your sentiments on these heads ... I ... may possibly have it in my power to forward your wishes in regard to them.
And Richard Rigby on the 24th:
The Duke of Grafton ... appears to feel the unpleasantness of your situation, and I am convinced he wishes to relieve you from it. He instantly would do it in any practicable manner for the service of Lord Hinchingbrooke, whose perverseness, give me leave to observe by the way, cannot be laid to the charge of anybody but himself; and therefore, though part of the reason which induced you to return into the King’s service, in the subordinate situation where you are, is unhappily removed, yet it is not removed by those who stipulated and were ready to perform the whole of their part of the bargain.
What the bargain had been does not appear; but Hinchingbrooke was weak and confused rather than ‘perverse’ and he remained unplaced for three years.
In December 1770 Sandwich succeeded Weymouth as secretary of state, but less than a month later exchanged the office for the Admiralty; and again the question seems to have come up of a post for Hinchingbrooke. On 12 Jan. Sandwich wrote him an angry letter—was Hinchingbrooke both difficult and ineffective, or was this a piece of bullying ill-humour? What provoked Sandwich is not clear.
It is not that I have accommodated Administration [wrote Sandwich] but Administration that has gratified me in my request to change my department; I heartily wish you well, and will assist you in the capacity of Earl of Sandwich in any support I can give you; your family interest will devolve to you after my death, and I shall keep it as entire as the little assistance you give me will enable me to do; but I have taken a firm resolution never to meddle with any of your political concerns, having found by experience, that you have no opinion of my judgment in matters of that nature, and that whenever I have endeavoured to serve you it has had no other effect than the engendering a variance between [us].
But on the 28th the King wrote to Lord North:5
As the only proper candidates for the vice chamberlain’s [place], were Lord Hinchingbrooke and Lord Garlies, I have decided in favour of the former, and have acquainted Lord Sandwich that I shall appoint his son.
In March 1782 Sandwich and Hinchingbrooke went out with North; but when the Coalition Government was being formed in April 1783, Sandwich’s extreme unpopularity rendered it impossible for them to offer him effective office, and he finished by accepting the insignificant but lucrative post of ranger of the parks; moreover Hinchingbrooke was promoted master of the buckhounds. But presumably neither felt much cordiality for the Coalition. Robinson wrote in his mid-December 1783 survey for the King and Pitt: ‘Probably Lord Hinchingbrooke might be got pro with arrangement’;6 while Sandwich merely recommended caution to Hinchingbrooke: ‘Whatever your final resolution may be’, he wrote on 20 Dec., ‘I would advise you on no account to mention your political ideas, till near the time of the meeting of the new Parliament.’7 But Hinchingbrooke did not wait—Jenkinson wrote to Robinson, 14 Feb. 1784:8
As for Sandwich ... I am persuaded that he will be disposed to treat, whenever he thinks it for his interest; and I should not be over solicitous to have him as we have already got his son and I do not think that his conduct entitles him to a favour.
Hinchingbrooke adhered to Pitt, and retained his post which could hardly have been a matter of indifference to him: he was heavily in debt. Thus after Rigby’s death in 1788, a bond of Hinchingbrooke’s was found among his papers, deposited by Robert Mackreth, a notorious usurer, as part-security for a larger sum lent to Mackreth by Rigby (presumably from Pay Office money): the bond dated 1 May 1779 was in the penal sum of £8,000 for payment of £4,000 and interest ‘on a day long since past’.9 And when in 1785 a difference arose between Sandwich and Hinchingbrooke as to who should pay some outstanding bills for Hinchingbrooke’s election in 1780, Mackreth was to be one of the arbitrators.10
In the Parliament of 1784-90 Hinchingbrooke voted regularly with the Government, and himself transacted Huntingdonshire business with them. This was new to Sandwich who, on 12 Oct. 1788, wrote to his son, aged nearly 45:
By your letter ... I perceive that you are an able negotiator, as by the account you give of what passed between you and Mr. Pitt you seem to have said everything that was proper, and nothing more than what was perfectly judicious.
Hinchingbrooke (Earl of Sandwich since 1792) died 6 June 1814.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Add. 32930, ff. 154-5.
- 2. Add. 38198, f. 309.
- 3. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 228, pp. 58-59; 231, pp. 194-8; Almon, iii. 87; xvii. 523; Debrett, vi. 343, 375.
- 4. Sandwich mss.
- 5. Fortescue, ii. 213.
- 6. Laprade, 68.
- 7. Sandwich mss.
- 8. Abergavenny mss.
- 9. Essex RO, Rigby mss.
- 10. Hinchingbrooke to Sandwich, 24 Oct. and 4 Nov. 1785; Sandwich to Hinchingbrooke, 11 Jan. and 8 Mar. 1786; Sandwich mss.