PHILIPPS, John George (1761-1816), of Cwmgwili, Carm.

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



1784 - 1796
7 Nov. 1796 - Dec. 1803

Family and Education

b. 1761, 1st surv. s. of Griffith Philipps of Cwmgwili by 2nd w. Lucretia Elizabeth, da. of Henry Foulkes of London. educ. Westminster 1773; Brasenose, Oxf. 16 Dec. 1779, aged 18; L. Inn 1781-4. m. (1) 10 Jan. 1782, Anne (bur. 2 Apr. 1806), da. of John Ball, mines agent, of Aberystwyth, Card., 3s. 4da.; (2) 10 Dec. 1807, Anne Thomas, his maidservant, da. of the landlord of the Black Horse inn, Water Street, Carmarthen, 1s. suc. fa. 1781.

Offices Held

Sheriff Carm. 1812-13, mayor Carmarthen 1783, 1810, 1816.

Capt. Carm. yeomanry 1794; capt. Carm. supp. militia 1798, maj. 1798; maj. 2 batt. Carm. vols. 1803-7.


Philipps, who had taken over from his father the leadership of the Blue interest in Carmarthen borough, continued to sit for the borough as a Foxite Whig on the strength of it.1 His support of the dissenters’ claims in the previous Parliament had brought down on him before the election of 1790 the wrath of the bishop of St. Davids and the threat of opposition from Sir William Mansel, the outgoing county Member, who supported Pitt’s administration; but nothing came of it, and he remained favourable to the repeal of the Test Act. A member of the Whig Club since 3 Apr. 1786, he continued to vote with the Foxites, on the Oczakov resolutions, 12 Apr. 1791; the Russian armament, 1 Mar. 1792; for Grey’s motion for parliamentary reform, 7 May 1793; against the landing of Hessian troops, 14 Mar. 1794; against raising public funds by private benevolence, 28 Mar.; in favour of taxing placemen and pensioners, 8 Apr.; against the enlistment of émigrés, 14 Apr.; against the suspension of habeas corpus, 16 May 1794; for Fox’s censure motion, 24 Mar. 1795, and Wilberforce’s peace motion, 27 May; for Sumner’s amendment on the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June, and against the seditious meetings bill, 10 and 25 Nov. 1795. Apparently he never spoke in debate.

In November 1795, by a stratagem, Philipps was cheated of the honour of presenting a loyal address to the King from the borough, which his enemies placed in the hands of Hamlyn, the county Member. At the same time it became clear that he was to be opposed at the ensuing election by his erstwhile ally Lord Dynevor, who put up his brother-in-law Dorrien Magens. Philipps was defeated, but unseated his opponent on petition: this was said to have cost him £64,000 in all.2

In the Parliament of 1796, Philipps continued to act with opposition, voting with them on the orders in council, 28 Feb., 1 Mar. 1797; on the French invasion of Ireland, 3 Mar.; on Whitbread’s censure motion, 10 May, and for Grey’s motion on parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797. He seems subsequently to have seceded with Fox, for no further minority vote is recorded until 25 May 1801, when he voted for Grey’s motion on the state of the nation. On 7 May 1802 he further voted for Nicholls’s address of thanks for the dismissal of Pitt.

By 1800 Philipps was hard up: his expenses of 1796 had proved excessive. He had never sought anything for himself, though had the Whigs come to power in 1792 a friend of his was confident that he would have been a lord of Admiralty. He could not consider another contest and was said to be ‘disgusted with politics and tired of Parliament’. His friend John Nash advised him, 3 Apr. 1800, that he should leave Wales and settle near London: ‘I think your health and even your life depend on it ... inactivity is the enemy of yours. I mean inactivity of mind as well as body or want of employment.’ Nash implied that Philipps was subject to melancholia, for which variety of scene was the only cure. When it was clear that there would be no contest, Philipps stood again in 1802. On 6 Apr. 1803 Fox requested his attendance, but without further evidence of parliamentary activity he resigned his seat in December in favour of Sir William Paxton, who had the funds to support himself.3 If Philipps was manoeuvred out of his seat he seems not to have objected, and it was rumoured that he received some compensation. In any case, he continued to act on behalf of the Blues in the borough, helping Lord Cawdor to maintain the cause there after 1804 when Cawdor inherited the estate of John Vaughan of Golden Grove, Philipps’s principal ally in borough politics. At times, Philipps probably felt he was only consulted on sufferance by Cawdor, and in 1813 the latter had to justify himself to Philipps on the delicate matter of his own son’s evidently more rapid advancement in the navy than Philipps’s son’s. Cawdor’s brother George Campbell* had strongly advised him to conciliate Philipps, who was ‘the only one with brains’ among his allies at Carmarthen. Philipps died 26 May 1816, ‘a zealous supporter of the principles of Mr Fox’.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. R. D. Rees ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’, (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 437.
  • 2. Carm. RO, Cwmgwili mss 384-5; Trans. Carm. Antiq. Soc. iv. 67.
  • 3. Cwmgwili mss 354, 486-8, 533; Add. 47569, f. 133.
  • 4. Cwmgwili mss 680A, 682; Carm. RO, 1 Cawdor 132, Campbell to Cawdor, 20 Nov. 1813; Gent. Mag. (1816), i. 637.