VAUGHAN, Wilmot, 1st Earl of Lisburne [I] (1728-1800), of Crosswood, Card.

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



3 Dec. 1755 - 1761
24 Dec. 1765 - 1768
1768 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 1728, 1st s. of Wilmot, 3rd Visct. Lisburne [I], and bro. of Hon. John Vaughan I*. educ. Eton 1742-5. m. (1) 3 July 1754, Elizabeth (d. 19 May 1755), da. of Joseph Gascoyne Nightingale of Mamhead, Devon, sis. and h. of Washington Nightingale, 1s.; (2) 19 Apr. 1763, Dorothy, da. of John Shafto of Whitworth, co. Dur., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. as 4th Visct. [I] 4 Feb. 1766; mat. uncle Thomas Watson of Berwick 1766; cr. Earl of Lisburne [I] 18 July 1776.

Offices Held

Sec. to chancellor of Exchequer Apr. 1761-May 1762; ld. of Trade Jan. 1769-Apr. 1770, of Admiralty Apr. 1770-1782.

Ld. lt. Card. Jan. 1763-d; custos rot. Merion 1769-d.


Lord Lisburne was returned unopposed for Cardiganshire for the fifth and last time at the general election of 1790. BY then he was a disgruntled man cheated, as he thought, of an English peerage which he had expected the Duke of Portland to secure for him in the coalition ministry of 1783: since then he had not uttered in debate and had voted in Opposition to Pitt’s ministry. On 6 Nov. 1787 he had joined the Whig Club. On 12 Apr. 1791 he paired against government on the Oczakov question, and the same month he was listed a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. No further minority vote is recorded: he inclined to government with the Portland Whigs, though they did not venture to list him as one of them in December 1792. For years he had not been a regular attender and his declining health provided a further obstacle, but he hoped that his return to the fold would be rewarded: on 2 Aug. 1794 he applied through Portland for an English peerage. In reply, 10 Aug., the duke admitted that he knew of Lisburne’s wishes ‘in the end of 1788 or the beginning of 1789 or possibly in 1784’, but could do nothing at present, as only those to whom ‘the party had been under the longest engagements’ could be considered: he offered to submit Lisburne’s name next time there were creations. Lisburne must have taken this badly, since Portland had acknowledged and promised to remember his claims in a letter of 3 June 1790, in answer to a direct application, thinking them justified by ‘a very long private friendship and a very long political warfare’.1 In 1796 Lisburne retired, securing the boroughs seat and not the county, as he had hoped, for his son John.

Government still did not take the hint and Portland warned Lisburne that the pursuit of his ambition at present ‘was more likely to be fatal than serviceable’ to his interests. When Pitt requested John Vaughan’s attendance in a circular, 27 Sept. 1797, Lisburne replied, 30 Sept., that both his son and he (whose life had been despaired of a year before) were anxious to serve government, but that he was surprised to find that, despite Portland’s engagement to him and a further memorial of his claim to the latter ‘last Wednesday’, his name was not in the list of new creations. His claims were based on his family’s having been peers of Ireland ‘above a hundred years’, his own political and his brother Sir John’s military services. In an unfortunate concluding paragraph he suggested that his support would be conditional on his not being ‘set aside’, which would be ‘a personal affront’. In a draft reply of 6 Oct 1797, Pitt stated that the peerage was not practicable, and that the concluding paragraph was not such as he could convey to the King. But on 9 Oct., Portland informed Lisburne that Pitt had shown the King the letter, ‘and his Majesty observed upon it that he could not have supposed that Lord Lisburne would have imagined that he was to be frightened into giving peerages—the moment was not open for explanation—your opinion, the declaration of your intentions, was in writing’. Portland absolved himself of all responsibility for this denouement. The mortified Lisburne, writing to Pitt, whom he did not know personally, two days later, explained that his application of 30 Sept. was not meant ‘for the royal eye’, and complained of ‘the severe and unmerited treatment I have met with not only in the failure of the object I have had so long in expectation but the being represented to his Majesty in unfavourable terms’.2

Lisburne died unsatisfied, 6 Jan. 1800, ‘aged 72’. Although he owned 40,000 acres in Cardiganshire worth over £3,000 p.a., estates in the North, with a parliamentary interest at Berwick worth £2,000 p.a. and more, and a valuable property embellished by him in Devonshire (sold in 1823 for over £100,000.3 he left his estates encumbered by a debt of £29,000 at five per cent. He was commended for his classical scholarship, taste, judgment and benevolence.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. 542; NLW, Crosswood deeds and docs. iii. 54, 57, 58, 60, 65, 67; CJ, xlviii. 318; PRO 30/8/148, f. 170; Portland mss PwV107; Egerton 2137, ff. 87, 142.
  • 2. Egerton 2137, f. 161; PRO 30/8/152, ff. 131, 133; 195, f. 176; Portland mss PwV 111.
  • 3. In Sept. 1792 Lisburne was interested in purchasing his interest at Ashburton from Lord Orford, Egerton 2137, f. 121.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1800), i. 89.