VAUGHAN, Hon. Wilmot (c.1730-1800), of Crosswood, Card.

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



3 Dec. 1755 - 1761
24 Dec. 1765 - 1768
1768 - 1796

Family and Education

b. c.1730, 1st s. of Wilmot, 3rd Visct. Lisburne [I] and bro. of Hon. John Vaughan.  educ. ?Eton 1742-5.  m. (1) 3 July 1754, Elizabeth (d. 19 May 1755), da. of J. G. Nightingale of Mamhead, Devon, sis. and coh. of Washington Nightingale, 1s.; (2) 19 Apr. 1763, Dorothy, da. of John Shafto, M.P., of Whitworth, co. Dur., sis. of Robert Shafto, 1s. 2da.  suc. fa. as 4th Visct. 4 Feb. 1766, and uncle, Thomas Watson 1766; cr. Earl of Lisburne [I] 18 July 1776.

Offices Held

Sec. to chancellor of Exchequer Apr. 1761-May 1762; ld. of Trade Jan. 1769-Apr. 1770, of Admiralty Apr. 1770-March 1782; ld. lt. Card. 1762- d.; custos rot. Merion. 1769- d.


When Vaughan declared his candidature for Cardiganshire in 1755 his chief concern was to stop the rival Whig families of Lloyd of Peterwell and Johnes of Hafod from raising an opposition against him. In a political survey of the county which he sent to his uncle Thomas Watson, obviously for transmission to Newcastle, he accused them of having, by their own dissensions, broken up the Whig interest. ‘I have no other resource but to cultivate the general interests of the county and to gain as many friends on both sides as I can.’ The support which he was receiving from some of the Tories should not therefore count against him—‘the utmost that can be expected from the state of parties here, is to have a Whig chosen without too nice an inquiry into the principles of those who espouse him’.1 In the end Johnes was persuaded to give his interest to Vaughan, who was returned unopposed. Both ‘parties’ were completely broken up in the county, the name Tory being merely bandied about by competing families to place their opponents in an invidious light with the Government.

Thus Vaughan in turn, on 26 July 1759, accused Johnes and Lloyd of concerting with Sir John Philipps to put up John Pugh Pryse for the county at the next general election, and to deliver the borough into ‘Tory’ hands. He therefore inquired whether he could rely on Government support. Newcastle replied on 3 Aug.:

I cannot imagine that any attack upon you can have any success; the particular friendship I have for you; the zeal you have ever showed for the King and his royal family, justly entitle you to all the support which I can give.

A year later, on 3 Feb. 1761, Vaughan bitterly complained to Newcastle that after repeated assurances of support he now saw the sheriff appointed at the recommendation of his opponents; he therefore would not stand—

it having been my original resolution never to stand a contested election in opposition to Government ... It is not however a little mortifying that the interest of a family who from the exclusion bill to this day have constantly and warmly supported the principles of this constitution should be sacrificed by Administration to an unknown young man whose ancestors till within these few years never took the oaths or aided and approved any one measure of Government.2

In 1764 Vaughan and Sir John Hussey Delaval declared themselves candidates for Berwick—‘they have ever since been canvassing the town with the greatest eagerness and expense’, wrote George Grenville to Patrick Craufurd on 11 Dec. 1764. Delaval had the support of Government, while Vaughan was backed by his uncle, Thomas Watson, the other Member. It is not clear whether the contest was pressed to a poll, but Delaval was returned. With Newcastle once more in office Watson may have felt that he could now safely vacate his seat in favour of Vaughan, who was duly returned on 24 Dec. 1765. Rockingham, who had listed Watson as friend, no doubt looked upon Vaughan as such. But after the Rockinghams had left the Government, Vaughan continued to adhere to it. When on 17 Oct. 1766 Grafton wrote to Chatham about a place to be offered to Burke, Chatham replied (19 Oct.): ‘My engagement to Lord Lisburne [as Vaughan now was] for the next opening at the Board of Trade is already known to your Grace; nor is it a thing possible to waive for Mr. Burke.’ When in December 1766 the crisis over Lord Edgcumbe produced vacancies at the Admiralty, Lisburne was to have been appointed to the Board but had to decline, because he ‘could not be chosen again for Berwick, where Lord Percy refused to give him his interest’. Lisburne voted with Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and in December was again talked of for office. George Selwyn wrote on 29 Dec. that Lisburne had ‘fancied he should be this week nominated either of the Admiralty or Board of Trade’ but ‘was hunting a mare’s nest’. In December 1768 the Duke of Grafton wrote to the King about a vacancy at the Board of Trade:

Lord Lisburne was apprised of his Majesty’s favourable intentions previously to the junction of the Duke of Bedford’s friends to the Administration; the Duke of Grafton humbly submits to his Majesty’s determination whether the present is not a proper occasion to reward a zeal which the disappointment of that time did not alter.

The King replied the same day agreeing to the appointment of Lisburne, ‘whose conduct makes me think he can have no competitor’.3 During his short term at the Board of Trade, Lisburne diligently attended to its business—in 1769 he attended 52 out of a possible 59 meetings. He was also regular in his attendance in Parliament, and, with the sole exception of Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774, is never found voting with the Opposition. But there is no record of his having ever spoken in the Parliament of 1768-74.

In 1768 Lisburne was returned for Cardiganshire with the support of John Pugh Pryse; and he was re-elected without opposition on taking office in 1769 and 1770, and again at the general elections of 1774, 1780, and 1784. Between 1774 and 1782 he voted steadily with the Government, his name appearing in every extant division list. Between November 1780 and March 1782 Lisburne spoke half a dozen times in the House strictly on the business of his department, and 1781-2 on personal points in defence of his brother John. After that he relapsed into silence.

On 18 Feb. 1783 he voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, but in November-December was absent from the divisions on Fox’s East India bill. ‘He feels himself to have been neglected by Lord North, having had no notice taken of him and does not attend’, wrote Robinson; and similarly Portland’s secretary in a list of July 1783 wrote against Lisburne’s name: ‘Very much out of humour, but not likely to vote against.’ He now aspired to a British peerage, and gave the following account to Pitt in a letter of 30 Sept. 1797:

When Lord Guilford quitted office in ’82 he recommended my pretensions to the British peerage to the Duke of Portland. His Grace in a very handsome manner was pleased to adopt them, but from a variety of circumstances which he candidly acknowledged to me he was prevented from carrying my wishes into effect.4

Obviously he resented not being able to obtain it when his two friends, North and Portland, were united in the Coalition Government.

Robinson thought in December 1783 that Lisburne could be gained over; but throughout the Parliament of 1784-90 he voted with the Opposition.

Lisburne died 6 Jan. 1800.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32855, f. 346; 32856, ff. 52-53, 319, 612-13.
  • 2. Add. 32893, ff. 300, 471; 32918, f. 248.
  • 3. Grenville letter bk.; Chatham Corresp. iii. 110-11; Grafton, Autobiog. 108; Grenville Pprs. iii. 392-3; HMC Carlisle, 221, 224; Fortescue, ii. 63; Grafton mss.
  • 4. Laprade, 95; CP; Chatham mss.