KNOX, Thomas (1786-1858), of Dungannon Park, co. Tyrone.
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Family and Education
b. 19 Apr. 1786, 1st s. of Hon. Thomas Knox* by Hon. Diana Jane Pery, da. and coh. of Edmund Sexton, 1st Visct. Pery [I]. educ. Harrow 1797-1803; St. John’s, Camb. 1803. m. 28 Feb. 1815, Mary Juliana, da. of Hon. and Most Rev. William Stuart, abp. of Armagh, 3s. 6da. Styled Visct. Northland 1831-40; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Ranfurly [I] 20 Apr. 1840.
1st capt. Dungannon inf. 1807.
In 1806, Knox’s father, a candidate for county Tyrone, was in treaty with Lord Enniskillen for a seat in Parliament for him, but nothing came of it. He had to wait until 1812, when his father made way for him in the county seat, as his grandfather would not return him for the family borough. He was not opposed, the Castle being hamstrung by his family’s bringing in a nominee of government for Dungannon, but if they had any hopes of Knox they were disappointed, for almost at once he began to consult Lord Grenville, through his father, on political questions.1 He voted with opposition on the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb. 1813, and on 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813 for Catholic relief. On 13 May 1814 he expressed his hostility to the proceedings of the Catholic board and on 8 June applauded its suppression. While he re-emerged in opposition to the renewal of the property tax, 19, 20 Apr. 1815, and to the alienation of Genoa, 27 Apr., on 30 May he announced that he could no longer support Catholic relief without firmer securities, and on 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817 was in the majorities against it. In other respects, he was a steady voter with the Grenvillite opposition in the sessions of 1816 and 1817, particularly on retrenchment, although he opposed the reform of the Irish grand jury system, 14 Feb. 1816, and supported the Irish army estimates, 28 Feb. On 10 Mar. 1817 he urged the suspension of distillation from grain in Ireland as it consumed the best corn and led to tumult, and on 22 May spoke for the Irish linen trade against the removal of foreign linen import duties. He voted against parliamentary reform, 20 May, and defended the continuation of the Irish Insurrection Act, 13 June, voting on 23 June for the general suspension of habeas corpus.
Despite the pressure allegedly exerted on him on behalf of one of his most influential supporters in the county, Lord Belmore, who was negotiating with government for a representative peerage, Knox’s occasional concessions to the ministerial point of view did not impress the Irish government. The chief secretary wrote of him, 1 Nov. 1815, as having ‘always voted in direct opposition’, and again, 29 Apr. 1816, as ‘one of the most regular oppositionists we have’: the lord lieutenant was reported eager to see Knox ousted from his seat. In April 1817 his father informed Thomas Grenville that government had latterly refused to promote Northland in the peerage on account of his grandson’s politics, but that it made no difference to their political conduct. On 31 Jan. 1818 he at once joined the Grenvillite ‘third party’, being the only Member to have ‘expressly declared his adherence’ to the original trio by 2 Feb. The Castle thought none the better of him or his family for this. The chief secretary wrote, 14 Feb. 1818,
the Knox family have received more favours from the crown than they ever deserved or ever can repay. The only member of their family in the House of Commons is in opposition ... I think a favour to this family would really be worse than thrown away.
In short there had been ‘a complete liquidation of the claims of the Knox family on the government’, Knox’s uncles being then possessed of the bishopric of Derry, the richest in Ireland, the deanery of Down and a pension of £800 p.a.2
In 1818 Knox was driven out of the county seat with Castle concurrence and fell back on the family borough of Dungannon, of which his father had at length acquired the nomination. In that Parliament he voted selectively with the Grenvillites: against the Bank restriction, 2 Feb. 1819, for criminal law reform, 2 Mar., and again in the minority on public finance, 7 June. He was in the government majority in the case of Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar., and in the minorities against state lotteries, 4 May, and the Irish window tax, by voice and vote, 5 May. On 22 Feb. he went away on the royal establishment question; he paired against Catholic relief on 3 May and did not vote on the censure motion of 18 May. He voted for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June, and defended the seditious meetings prevention bill, 6 Dec. 1819, but in such a low voice, under the gallery, that he could not be reported.3 He died 21 Mar. 1858.