THOMAS, Sir George, 3rd Bt. (c.1748-1815), of Dale Park, nr. Arundel, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. c. 1748, o.s. of Sir William Thomas, 2nd Bt., of Yapton by Margaret, da. and h. of Dr Walter Sydserfe1 of Antigua, and Soho, Mdx. educ. Eton 1763-7. m. (1) at Geneva, 22 Mar. 1772, Louise (d. 29 Sept. 1777), da. of Comte Louis Sales of Pugnay-la-Tour,2 1s.; (2) 20 Dec. 1782, Sophia, da. of Adm. John Montagu† of Lackham, Wilts., s.p. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 28 Dec. 1777.
Maj. commdt. Suss. fencible cav. 1794, col. 1795-9.
The Thomas fortune was established by Sir George’s grandfather, sometime governor of the Leeward Islands. Disinherited by this grandfather in favour of his cousins George White Thomas* and Inigo Freeman Thomas* for marrying a ‘foreign woman’, Sir George was yet a rich man, having succeeded to estates in Antigua under his father’s marriage settlement. He purchased land in Sussex near his grandfather’s property, consolidating ‘by various purchases the property of the whole parish’ of Madehurst, where he built a ‘very large and splendid mansion’ between 1784 and 1788. At the general election of 1790 he was returned for Arundel on his own interest. The Treasury secretary, George Rose, was his ‘friend and relation’ and ‘on every occasion both in and out of Parliament’ he zealously supported Pitt.3 He was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. No speech of his is reported. In 1794 he raised at his own expense the Sussex fencible cavalry.
In view of his antecedents and support of government he was much mortified at not obtaining the governorship of the Leeward Islands for which he had applied in June 1791 and subsequently in September 1794; therefore he sought an Irish peerage, which, he said, his grandfather had been promised, and renewed his application in June and then in October 1795, when he pointed out to Pitt that if he gave up his seat an enemy would be returned. A month later, complaining that his letters had been ignored, he assured the minister that his absence from Parliament was not due to resentment, but to his regiment’s being ordered to Exeter. ‘I have’, he concluded, ‘asked the last and only favour I wished of you.’4
Once more refused the governorship of the Leewards, the promise of which he solicited from the Duke of Portland from September 1796, Thomas wrote to Pitt on ‘31 Apr.’ 1797 remarking on the ‘zealous support of administration’ he and his relations had given, ‘without having ever received one single benefit, favour or acknowledgment, and having scarce even requested a paltry place for a custom-house officer’. As he received no reply, he wrote again on 15 May:
No motive of resentment shall ever induce me to transfer my support from an administration of which I thought well, to men, whose principles I deprecate ... But at the same time, Sir, my feelings are too acute to suffer me to sit in the House of Commons and vote with those, by whom I think myself treated in the most harsh and unworthy manner. My only alternative therefore is to retire; and in that retreat I shall offer you one more instance of my political consideration, and a proof of the those [sic] principles which have ever actuated my conduct, by vacating my seat to one of your friends whom you may wish to be in Parliament, on being reimbursed my expenses ... Whenever that matter is settled, I shall only have one favour to request of you, which will be the Chiltern Hundreds.
On 29 June 1797 he applied to Dundas for the Chiltern Hundreds.5
Soon after going out of Parliament, Thomas made an offer ‘for the assistance of government and support of the war’, which, he claimed, ‘gave rise to the voluntary contributions’ and at last brought him a letter of thanks from Pitt, lamenting that he had not been able to gratify his wishes (27 Sept. 1797). In 1799 Thomas was censured for misapplying regimental funds (though not to his own benefit) and was deprived of his command. Little more than a year later he again asked Pitt for an Irish peerage, fearing that the Union would put a stop to creations: ‘I hope in the ensuing Parliament again to show you my regard’, he wrote. Again disappointed, he made no effort to come in at the general election of 1802: he may have been financially pressed, as about that time he sold his Antiguan estate for £22,000. On the renewal of hostilities he wrote to Lord Pelham offering his services on condition that the censure of 1799 was ‘done away’ with. ‘I am not in the habit’, he began, ‘of importuning my friends in office.’ 6 Thomas died 6 May 1815.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: M. H. Port
- 1. So named in will of Sir George Thomas, 1st Bt., PCC 73 Alexander.
- 2. Burke PB (1949); Eton Register has Jane Louisa, da. of Alexander Sales of Pregny-la-Tour.
- 3. PCC 73 Alexander; Dallaway, Suss. ii(1), 215; PRO 30/8/183, ff. 24, 30.
- 4. PRO 30/8/183, ff. 20-32.
- 5. Ibid. ff. 34-36, 303; Portland mss, PwV110, Portland to Thomas, 27 Sept. 1796; SRO GD51/1/38.
- 6. PRO 30/8/183, f. 38; 195, f. 174; V. L. Oliver, Antigua, iii. 132; Add. 33111, ff. 210-11.