HELY HUTCHINSON, Hon. Christopher (1767-1826), of Benlomond House, Downshire Hill, Hampstead, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Jan. 1802 - 1812
1818 - 26 Aug. 1826

Family and Education

b. 5 Apr. 1767, 5th s. of John Hely Hutchinson (formerly Hely), MP [I], provost of Trinity, Dublin, by Christiana, da. of Abraham Nixon of Money, co. Wicklow, h. of her gt.-uncle Richard Hutchinson of Knocklofty, co. Tipperary (cr. Baroness Donoughmore [I] 16 Oct. 1783); bro. of Hon. John Hely Hutchinson*. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1784; L. Inn 1789, called [I] 1792. m. (1) 24 Dec. 1792, Anne Wensley (d. 30 Mar. 1796), da. of Sir James Bond, 1st Bt., MP [I], of Coolamber, co. Longford, 1s.; (2) 1 Oct. 1818, Anne, da. of Hon. and Very Rev. Maurice Crosbie, dean of Limerick, wid. of John Brydges Woodcock, s.p. legit.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1795-6.

Vol. army 1799, lt.-col. 1801.


Lord Hardwicke had this to say of the Hely Hutchinsons in a letter to the prime minister, 29 Nov. 1802:

Their conduct and uniform attention to their own interest and their propensity to unreasonable claims for government favours have been long and are become almost proverbial, but after these are obtained it appears to be an object of the family to obtain the further advantage of a grievance to be played off upon future occasions. Their own interest will I think prevent their going into opposition whatever may be threatened, for by such conduct Lord Donoughmore would not only lose his places, but would endanger his interest at Cork, where the merchants would not find their own interest, either public or private, advanced by supporting him in opposition.

This may have been applicable to ‘Kit’ Hely Hutchinson’s elder brothers, Lord Donoughmore and John, but it scarcely applied to him, who was a law unto himself.1

In 1795, after starting life as a barrister, he succeeded his father as Member for an Irish borough and supported Earl Fitzwilliam’s intended reforms. He resigned his seat in disgust at the restoration of the old regime under Lord Camden a year later. He saw action with his brother John against the rebels in 1798 and after vehemently opposing the Union (unlike his brothers), he developed a taste for military life as aide-de-camp to his brother in the Helder expedition, ‘to oppose and endeavour to put down France’. He proceeded to Constantinople and was returned for Cork in absentia on his brother’s receiving a peerage. He took his seat on 17 June 1802, residing chiefly in England thereafter.2

On 4 Mar. 1803 he appeared in support of government against Calcraft’s motion on the Prince of Wales’s debts. On 29 June he deplored the inadequate attendance on Irish business, and on 30 June and 22 July supported the government’s military measures, regretting that they did not extend to Ireland. He explained on 28 July that while he favoured the suppression of rebellion in Ireland, he believed that Irish loyalty would be encouraged by the investigation of grievances. On 11 Aug. he accordingly moved, unsuccessfully, for an inquiry into the state of Ireland. The motion and the debate that followed created much discussion, as it not only questioned the efficiency of the Castle but also suggested the necessity of fundamental reforms to conciliate the Irish. Spencer Perceval commented:

Mr Hutchinson’s speech talked generally of the necessity of attention to Irish subjects, of many grievances which were to be removed, and talked very mysteriously and indistinctly either of the particular grievances or the particular remedies which were to be applied to them. I don’t think he mentioned religious differences above once in his whole speech, but he left no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was what he aimed at.3

Undeterred, Hely Hutchinson continued to press his case for Irish reform, including Catholic relief, while at the same time supporting Addington’s government’s measures to suppress disorder in Ireland—the suspension of habeas corpus, 2 Dec. 1803, the martial law bill, 5 Dec., the Irish insurrection bill, 7 Mar. 1804, and the Irish militia offer bill, 28 Mar., 10, 11 Apr. The latter measure, he hoped, would diminish English ignorance of Ireland. While claiming to be independent, he was drawn into Fox’s orbit,4 voting for his amendment in favour of a council of general officers, 2 Aug. 1803, gaining Fox’s approbation of his views of 2 Dec., calling on Fox to promote an Irish inquiry, 5 Dec., and deploring the refusal to employ the Prince of Wales, 9 Dec. On 23 Apr. 1804 he spoke and voted in favour of Fox’s defence motion and was at that time considered a Foxite. On 25 Apr. he also voted with opposition in favour of Pitt’s defence motion.

Under Pitt’s second ministry, Hely Hutchinson was listed as a friend of the Prince and consequently ‘doubtful’, and ‘Opposition’: with justice, as he indicated by speeches and votes. The Irish government hoped to prevent this by warning Lord Donoughmore that, as a placeholder, he should not countenance his brother’s ‘constant opposition’ and that ‘if he does not change his tune, his lordship must make some other arrangement for the representation of Cork’. Donoughmore, however, brushed aside Hely Hutchinson’s offer to vacate his seat.5 Pitt’s connexion with the Union and the ‘exclusion’ of Fox, whom he called ‘the enlightened champion of the happiness and independence of mankind’, as well as the frustration of his wish that the Prince should be viceroy of Ireland, were his motives for opposition. Although he reluctantly assented to the renewal of the suspension of habeas corpus in February 1805, he insisted that ‘the Union would be of little benefit, if it was not followed up with other marks of attention to Ireland than continued suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act’. On 14 May he called for Catholic relief as the fulfilment of a pledge. An attempt to get Donoughmore to prevent him from voting against Melville on the censure against him failed6 and on 14 June, the better to criticize Pitt, he raised his voice amid calls for the question: ‘I will go on; if gentlemen think they will put me down in this way, they do not know the individual whom they attack.’

Hely Hutchinson supported his friends in power 1806-7, though he could not resist cavilling at their conduct of the charges against Wellesley’s Indian administration and his two reported speeches were on this subject. He was absent on the downfall of the ministry, having joined his brother Lord Hutchinson’s mission to Prussia and Russia, which enabled him to see action again in the campaign in eastern Europe. Returned in his absence in 1807, he did not reappear in the House until 1808, when he defended Catholic claims on 25 May. In Feb. 1809 he was a scathing critic of the convention of Cintra and of the conduct of the Peninsular war. He was in the minorities critical of the Duke of York, March 1809. He joined Folkestone in calling for the investigation of corruption, 17 Apr., abused ministers on this head and advocated constitutional reform, 5 May, paying fulsome tribute to Burdett’s plan for parliamentary reform, 15 June. He also spoke in favour of Irish tithe reform, 19, 30 May, personally attacking Castlereagh on the latter occasion. In the session of 1810, he brought in a critical motion against the Scheldt expedition, 12 Feb., offset his support for the vote of an annuity to Wellington by unsuccessfully moving a vote of thanks to his friend Sir Robert Wilson*, 22 Mar.; voted for parliamentary reform, 21 May, and spoke for it on 20 June; supported Catholic relief, 27 Feb., 21 May and (in a long speech) 1 June, and took Burdett’s and John Gale Jones’s part on the question of privilege in April and May. On 16 Apr. he threatened to move the repeal of the Act of Union.

Hely Hutchinson renewed his advocacy of Irish grievances in 1811: complaining of the lack of notice to Members to enable them to consider the speech from the throne before the address was framed, 13 Feb., he said that Ireland had been ‘uniformly neglected, insulted and oppressed’. He attempted to counter the Irish secretary’s suppression of Catholic meetings by calling for a repeal of the Irish Convention Act, but in this he was frustrated: he complained of the ‘hurry, precipitance and inadvertence’ in handling all Irish questions. He was a Friend of Constitutional Reform in March 1811, but withdrew his support in April. On 7 June he introduced an ambitious motion critical of the conduct of the war against Buonaparte by reference to ‘those fixed and immutable military principles, without which exertion must be useless’. It fell on deaf ears. So did his notice of a motion on 9 Jan. 1812 to repeal the Irish union, which he had described on 14 June previous as ‘degrading and abominable’. Canning called it ‘absolute nonsense—but which is entirely his own. He is mad—and nobody minds or supports him.’ There was some talk of a reprisal against his brothers, but Perceval decided against it, March 1812, the Prince Regent having put in a word for the family.7 Hely Hutchinson, a member of the Irish finance committee that session, continued his onslaughts on government and blamed the failure of his friends to obtain office in June 1812 on ‘bad faith in the negotiation’.8 His language in the House became increasingly violent.

His defeat at the general election of 1812 realized the Irish government’s ambition ‘to beat in the south of Ireland and in the second city of it the most determined advocate of Catholic claims’. Peel, the Irish secretary, welcomed ‘the loss of his long speeches’. In 1818, however, he regained his seat with strong Catholic support ‘and a considerable expenditure on the part of his brothers’. He remained a ‘terrible foe’ of government, if not a Burdettite. He was as good as his word to Lord Donoughmore, in 1814, that he would never ‘speak or act ... according to the will of another’ where the misrule of Ireland was concerned.9 Apart from Irish questions, he supported Burdett’s plan for parliamentary reform, 1 July 1819, called for retrenchment, 19 Mar. and 12 July, and, in opposing the seditious meetings bill, brought in a motion (lost by 265 votes to 69) to prevent its extension to Ireland, 13 Dec. 1819. He died 26 Aug. 1826. Constantly in financial straits, he relied on his elder brother to supply his property qualification for Parliament, and to support his marriage, on the death of her husband, to the lady who had been his mistress for 18 years.10

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Sidmouth mss; Wickham mss 46/31; PRO 30/9/16, Ryder to Abbot, 18 Nov. 1812.
  • 2. Dublin Corresp. 19 Oct. 1812.
  • 3. Glos. RO, Redesdale mss C21.
  • 4. Add. 47566, f. 167.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/328, f. 99; Add. 35715, f. 92; Donoughmore mss (PRO NI T3459/D43/15).
  • 6. PRO 30/8/328, f. 153.
  • 7. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 14 Jan. 1812; NLI, Richmond mss 67/1022, 1023.
  • 8. Parl. Deb. xxiii. 626.
  • 9. Surr. RO, Goulburn mss 2/13, Peel to Goulburn, 2 Nov. 1812; Donoughmore mss (PRO NI T3459/D43/5, 45); Moore Mems. ed. Russell, ii. 156.
  • 10. Donoughmore mss (PRO NI T3459/D43/37, 39, 42).