MONTGOMERY, Henry Conyngham (1765-1830), of the Hall, co. Donegal.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Mar. 1765, 1st s. of Capt. Alexander Montgomery of the Hall by Mary Galwey, da. of James Allen of Castle Dobbs, co. Antrim. m. 21 June 1800, Sarah Mercer, da. of Leslie Grove of Grove Hall, co. Donegal, 4s. 3da. suc. fa. 1792; cr. Bt. 3 Oct. 1808.
Cadet, E.I. Co. (Madras) 1782, cornet 1783, lt. 1792, capt. 1800, maj. 1804, ret. 1806.
Lt.-col. Donegal militia and inspector of yeomanry 1803.
Like his father, Montgomery chose the military profession and served with distinction as a cavalry officer in the war against Tipu Sultan in India. While on furlough in July 1803, he requested permission to raise a fencible corps in his native Donegal, where he thought he had ‘a chance of being most useful’ to government, though by now a ‘stranger’ there. He applied to Lord Hobart, whom he had known in India, and was armed with a testimonial from Lord Wellesley, to whom he had been captain of the bodyguard at Calcutta. His wish was gratified.1
Lord Wellesley was anxious to bring Montgomery into Parliament as one of his India squad in 1806 and with Michael Symes* he unsuccessfully contested St. Ives, where his return would have cost £3,500. By a bargain with (Sir) Christopher Hawkins*, Montgomery was returned instead for Mitchell, with Sir Arthur Wellesley, in January 1807 at the cost of £5,000.2 He made no mark that session and at the dissolution was sent by the Portland ministry to contest Coventry with Shawe, another Wellesleyite: a forlorn hope. He would have preferred to stand for Donegal, and on the death of Henry Vaughan Brooke in December 1807 Lord Wellesley encouraged him to offer himself there with the concurrence (denied him the year before) of his distant relative Lord Conyngham.3 After an expensive contest with a fellow Indian, George Vaughan Hart*, Montgomery was returned.
When disappointed over a request for local patronage, 24 Mar. 1808, he assured Sir Arthur Wellesley:
I do not however by this mean to intimate that I have the smallest intention of changing my conduct, for as long as Lord Wellesley continues his support to the administration so will I continue to do so.
The official view of him was, ‘Supports government but not zealously, and ... will oppose when he can’. On 10 June 1808 Wellesley reported to Perceval that government had had his ‘attendance and support’ and in October he became a baronet, at Wellesley’s rather than the viceroy’s instigation.4 He had, however, voted with the minorities favourable to Catholic claims, 29 Apr., 5, 25, 30 May 1808. He first spoke on 19 May in favour of sugar distillation, in view of the corn scarcity in Ireland. By November he had fallen out with the chief secretary over patronage. In a speech on the Duke of York’s misconduct, 17 Mar. 1809, he sat on the fence; but he voted, with other Wellesleyites who hoped to see the War Office in Wellesley’s hands, for the censure of Castlereagh for corruption, 25 Apr.5 He voted with government on the address and on the Scheldt inquiry, 23, 26 Jan., 30 Mar. 1810, against parliamentary reform, 21 May, and with the government minority on the Regency bill, 1 Jan. 1811.
Montgomery’s pre-ordained role in Parliament was to defend his patron’s conduct of the government of India. Creevey dubbed him ‘the ogre of the Indian squad’. An East India Company stockholder, he was not disappointed in his hope of replacing Sir Arthur Wellesley on the East Indian committee in February 1810, but was not retained on it next session. On 4 May 1810 he supported Creevey’s motion on Indian affairs, as also on 21 Feb. 1811, in both cases criticizing the Madras government and Sir George Barlow; on 4 Mar. he criticized the East India Company’s extravagance. He opposed any fresh regulation of the press in India, 21 Mar. On 10 Jan. 1812 he objected to the vote of thanks to Lord Minto in such a ‘vehement’ way as to lead Minto’s friends to suppose that Montgomery ‘must have some Indian source of enmity of his own’, since Lord Wellesley was supposed to favour the vote. He tried in vain to explain away his speech on 10 Feb. On 22 June 1813, once more a select committeeman, he ridiculed the notion of converting India to Christianity, thinking ‘the people of this country’ living in India in far greater need of moral reform. On 13 July he twice attempted, unsuccessfully, to improve the standing of the unpensioned senior military officers employed by the East India Company by moving additional clauses to the charter allowing them eligibility for the council or agency at the courts of native princes.6
Next to India, Ireland was Montgomery’s favourite subject in debate. On 17 Apr. 1809 he brought in a bill to guarantee the freehold rights of Irish Catholics who had not taken the oath of allegiance, which was mauled in committee, but passed on 12 June. On 28 May 1810 he seconded Robert Shaw’s motion critical of the Irish post office. On 22 Feb. and 7 Mar. 1811, supporting the prohibition of the Catholic convention, he nevertheless pledged himself to continue his support of Catholic claims ‘so long as those claims were brought forward in a peaceable and constitutional manner’. He voted for their claims, 21 May 1810, 31 May 1811, 24 Apr. 1812, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813 and 30 May 1815. On 16 May 1811 he voted for the repeal of the advertisement tax on Irish newspapers. He supported the Irish distilleries bill, 17 June 1813. He was a critic of the Orange Lodges, 29 June 1813, and on 25 Apr. 1815 (after voting against the new taxes on 13 Mar.), he opposed the extension of the property tax to Ireland: in fact he opposed it on principle, deprecating the prospect of the renewal of war and voting against it, 28 Apr. and 1 May.7
He also intervened on military affairs, supporting votes of thanks to Wellington and opposing Burdett’s motion to abolish flogging in the army, 16 June 1811. On 6 July 1814 he concurred in the general vote of thanks to the armed forces, paying particular tribute to the Duke of York and suggesting the inclusion of the East India Company forces.
When his patron left the government in February 1812, Montgomery voted selectively with opposition for the remainder of the session, as did other Wellesleyites. He naturally voted for Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May 1812, and had Lord Wellesley come to power he was earmarked for ‘a government’. He had canvassed Irish Members on Wellesley’s behalf and the Liverpool administration saw to it that Lord Conyngham withdrew his support from Montgomery in Donegal at the ensuing election. He gave up that seat, to be returned instead for a seat purchased by Lord Wellesley from Sir Leonard Holmes.8 Montgomery then continued, more than any of Wellesley’s squad, to vote with opposition; indeed, it was thought after his speech of 22 June 1813 against the missionaries, and another against the Irish viceroy, that he had gone too far and would be discarded by Wellesley. In the end it was Sir Leonard Holmes who protested: he required Montgomery and his colleague Richard Wellesley to vacate their seats, at first suggesting the end of the session of 1815, but finally agreeing to the first day of the session of 1816. Montgomery’s ostentatious support of the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 3 July 1815, may have been a bid to retain his situation.9 He was left in the wilderness. He subsequently returned to Madras, whence he wrote in 1826: ‘Were I once at home in England the prospect of starvation would not induce me to return to this country’.10 He died 21 Jan. 1830 at Dieppe.11
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: J. W. Anderson / P. J. Jupp
- 1. Bucks. RO, Hobart mss J387, 388, 411; C453.
- 2. Add. 37309, ff. 150, 152; 37415, ff. 15, 38.
- 3. Wellington mss, Montgomery to Wellesley, 8 May, 2 June; PRO NI, Abercorn mss IB3/11/17; Conyngham mss, Wellesley to Conyngham, 29 Nov. 1807.
- 4. Wellington mss; Add. 40221, ff. 15-42; NLI, Richmond mss 62/461a.
- 5. Wellington mss, Montgomery to Wellesley, 11 Nov. 1808; NLW mss 2791, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 14 May 1809; Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 147.
- 6. Creevey mss, Creevey to his wife, 23 Feb. 1811; SRO GD51/1/584, Montgomery to Saunders Dundas, 19 Feb. ; NLS mss 11804, W. to G. Elliot, 11 Jan. 1812.
- 7. CJ, lxiv. 103, 216; Add. 35648, f. 86.
- 8. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 437, 451; Add. 37297, ff. 167, 169, 171-2; Add. 40280, f. 46.
- 9. Add. 38261, f. 281; 40197, f. 111; 40284, f. 40.
- 10. Campbell-Preston mss, bdle. 529, Montgomery to Campbell, 6 Feb. 1826.
- 11. Gent. Mag. (1830), i. 273.