BLIGH, Thomas Cherburgh (?1761-1830), of Brittas, co. Meath.
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Family and Education
b. ?1761, 1st s. of the Very Rev. Robert Bligh, dean of Elphin, yr. bro. of John, 1st Earl of Darnley [I], by 2nd w. Frances Winthrop alias Winthorpe of London. educ. Armagh; St. John’s, Camb. 1 June 1780, aged 19. m. 3 Nov. 1790, Lady Theodosia Bligh, da. of John Bligh†, 3rd Earl of Darnley [I], 2s. das. suc. fa. 1778.
MP [I] 1783-1800.
Bligh was returned to the Irish parliament for Athboy on the interest of his kinsman and brother-in-law, John, 4th Earl of Darnley. When he attended, he was in opposition; neither he nor his patron voted on the Union.1 Darnley promoted his candidature for county Meath in the summer of 1801 and he was returned in the following year after an easy contest. At first his only recorded minority vote—and there seems to have been some doubt about that—was for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances, 4 Mar. 1803.2 Subsequently acting with Darnley, who was then in opposition, he was in the minority against Addington on defence questions, 15, 23, 25 Apr. 1804. On Pitt’s return to power, he was listed ‘Prince’ and Darnley saw fit to apologize to Pitt for Bligh’s vote, unauthorized by him, on 8 June 1804.3 In December 1804 and July 1805, he was listed as in opposition. His votes in the minority against the war with Spain, 12 Feb. 1805, and in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June, as well as for Catholic relief, 14 May, confirm this. In May 1806 the chief secretary reported that Bligh wanted an office for himself or his son in return for which he would support and be supported by government. On 25 Mar. and 9 Apr. 1807 he voted with them after their dismissal.
On 27 Apr. 1807 Bligh informed Castlereagh, who at once reported to the viceroy, that
he has hitherto voted against in concurrence with Lord Darnley, but his lordship being less hostile than he was, has liberated him from his allegiance, and he has desired me to convey to you his disposition to give his support to your government, and the administration generally. I find however that he looks to have his claims considered, when it can be done without embarrassment, and as he has a family and is exposed to expense in maintaining his interest in the county, looks at some future, but as early an opportunity as may be practicable, to office for himself, or some provision for one of his sons.4
Bligh proceeded to Ireland with Castlereagh’s recommendation of being ‘as liberal as any of our Irish politicians’, but on making his intentions known in Meath ran into difficulties. Lord Fingall, spokesman for the Catholic interest, refused to support a candidate who would not oppose the Portland ministry. Bligh, who feared the expense of a contest and felt sure he would be beaten, was urged by the chief secretary either to stand, all the same, as a friend of government or to decline with a public declaration that he refused to be ‘the tool of Lord Fingall’. Bligh, an ardent pro-Catholic, preferred to withdraw his offer of allegiance to ministers and to try to wriggle out of any pledges on the hustings.5 In this he succeeded, but his dilemma continued in Parliament, where it was reported in 1808 that he ‘supports generally and votes with opposition with reluctance’. It does not appear that he voted with opposition except on Catholic relief, 25 May 1808.
Yet early in 1810 Bligh was reported by Darnley, who had remained in opposition, to have ‘lately resumed his political connection with me, and I have every reason to believe that it will not again be interrupted’.6 So it proved, for Bligh voted against government on the Scheldt inquiry, 5, 30 Mar. 1810, voted for Catholic relief 1 June, was listed an adherent by opposition that year and sided with them in the Regency divisions 1810-11. He voted for the Catholic claims on 31 May 1811 and 24 Apr. 1812, as well as for Morpeth’s motion critical of the state of Ireland, 4 Feb. 1812. Apparently he never uttered in debate.
Bligh did not seek re-election in 1812, his relations with Darnley having again deteriorated. He had tried to call out Darnley in 1806 and again did so in 1812, when as before, he was tried in King’s bench and bound over to keep the peace. By 1820, he was again harassing Darnley and was bound over for another four years, but, unable to pay the sureties required for his discharge, spent the rest of his life in King’s Bench prison, where he died 17 Sept. 1830.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. G. C. Bolton, The Passing of the Irish Act of Union, 176-7.
- 2. Wickham mss 5/19, Wickham to Marsden, 6 Mar. 1803.
- 3. PRO 30/8/128, f. 168.
- 4. NLI, Richmond mss.
- 5. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Castlereagh, 19 May, Pollock to Wellesley, 22 May 1807.
- 6. Fortescue mss, Darnley to Grenville, 1 Mar. 1810.
- 7. The Times, 12, 16, 18 June 1812, 20, 27 Apr. 1820 (which in 1812 calls him ‘Robert’ Bligh by mistake and in 1820 ‘General’ Bligh, also erroneously); Gent. Mag. (1830), ii. 284, 649.