FOSTER, John (1740-1828), of Collon, co. Louth.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1801 - 17 July 1821

Family and Education

bap. 28 Sept. 1740, 1st s. of Anthony Foster, MP [I], of Collon, c. bar. exch. [I], and 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of William Burgh, MP [I], of Dublin. educ. by Rev. Dr. Richard Norris, Drogheda g.s.; Trinity, Dublin 1757; M. Temple 1759, called [I] 1766; bencher, King’s Inns, Dublin 1784. m. 14 Dec. 1764, his cos. Margaretta, da. of Thomas Burgh, MP [I], of Bert, co. Kildare (she was cr. Baroness Oriel [I] 5 June 1790 and Viscountess Ferrard [I] 22 Nov. 1797), 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1779; cr. Bar. Oriel [UK] 17 July 1821. d. 23 Aug. 1828.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1761-1800.

Chairman of ways and means [I] 1777-84; customer of Dublin 1779-84; PC [I] 9 July 1779, [GB] 6 Sept. 1786; chan. of exch. [I] Apr. 1784-Sept. 1785, July 1804-Feb. 1806, May 1807-July 1811; Speaker of House of Commons [I] 5 Sept. 1785-2 Aug. 1800; member, bd. of trade 1785-1800, Feb. 1802; first commr. of treasury [I] 1804-6, second commr. 1807-13, [UK] Sept. 1807-Jan. 1812; commr. of public recs. [I] 1810.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1784; vice-pres. bd. of agriculture 1803.

Custos rot. co. Louth 1798-1801, gov. 1798-d.

Capt. Collon inf. 1796.


Foster, who had sat undisturbed for Louth since the Union, had long aspired to a United Kingdom peerage as the last Speaker of the Irish Commons. After his unopposed return on his family interest at the 1820 general election Lord Camden advised him to apply again, explaining that as he had previously ‘requested an audience of the prince regent, in which you laid before him your old claim and your anxious wishes, you would naturally repeat that request now that he is king’.1 Foster accordingly notified Lords Liverpool, the premier, and Castlereagh*, the foreign secretary, of his renewed application and wrote to the king, 9 Apr. 1820

to express his humble hope that ... he may receive ... that accustomed and permanent mark of the approbation of the crown, which so many of his predecessors in the chair have received by an hereditary seat in the Upper House ... its having been the usual practice of the sovereigns of Great Britain to create new peerages on their accession ... Mr. Foster is now very near his eightieth year and hopes that this circumstance may excuse his anxiety.2

Assuring Foster that ‘the mode of application has not been detrimental’, 7 May 1820, Camden urged him to come to England to press his claims further.3 Foster’s son was also for ‘pushing the matter’ and against ‘abandoning it’, and complained ‘that with the tenor of Lord Liverpool’s letter before you no man in the kingdom has been so ill treated by the administration as you have’.4

Foster was named to the select committees on agricultural distress, 31 May 1820, 19 Mar. 1821. He called for repeal of the Union duties and the ‘total removal of all obstacles to the commercial intercourse between England and Ireland’, 8 June 1820. He spoke in support of a grant to prevent a run on the Irish banks, saying the ‘necessity of an immediate remedy was obvious for the fact that eight banks had failed in the south-west of Ireland’, 16 June. He condemned a move to prevent Irish masters in chancery from sitting in Parliament as an ‘attempt to defeat the wishes, and to interfere with the franchises of the people of Dublin’, who had returned Thomas Ellis, 30 June. That day he argued that ‘it would be ingratitude to take away the bounties on linen from Ireland’. On 6 July he denied what had been had ‘imputed to him’ by William Smith, Whig Member for Norwich, insisting that he ‘never could have been guilty of the absurdity of asserting’ that the English Parliament ‘could not legislate for the whole of the empire’ and warning of the danger of ‘setting the manufactures of one part of the country against those of another part, as if they had separate interests’. He seconded a motion for a grant to repair Banff and Peterhead harbours, 12 July 1820.5 On 8 Jan. 1821 he organized a ‘most numerous and highly respectable’ county meeting at Drogheda to address the king and denounce the ‘desperate attempts made in Great Britain to alienate the affections of the people from the constitution’.6 He apparently did not vote on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., or Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He seconded a successful amendment for a select committee on the Newington vestry bill, 21 Mar., and secured returns of country bank notes, 28 Mar.7 In his last known action in the House, he voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821.8 He was one of George IV’s coronation peers, for which Camden took much of the credit, although Castlereagh, whom he duly thanked, was also instrumental.9

Foster was described as ‘the best gentleman-manager of nursery grounds, plantations, and woods’ by the agricultural writer and Member for Cumberland, John Curwen. He ‘entirely built’ the ‘remarkably neat village’ of Collon, and ‘in spite of the sterility of the soil’, its ‘elevated situation’ and ‘its uninterrupted exposure to the winds of the sea’, his plantations there grew ‘very luxuriantly’.10 However, his ‘relish for improving’ and ‘magnificent’ style of living ‘embarrassed his fortunes’. He died in August 1828, after a steady decline in his health.11 He was succeeded by his only surviving son Thomas Henry Skeffington, who had replaced him as Member for Louth, 1821-24.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


See A. Malcomson, John Foster.

  • 1. PRO NI, Foster mss D562/336, Camden to Foster, 2 Apr. 1820.
  • 2. Ibid.; Add. 38284, f. 76.
  • 3. Foster mss 336.
  • 4. PRO NI, Chilham (Foster) mss T2519/4/1719, T. Skeffington to Foster, 11 June 1820.
  • 5. The Times, 13 July 1820.
  • 6. Belfast Commercial Chron. 17 Jan. 1821; Malcomson, 229.
  • 7. The Times, 22 Mar., 29 Mar. 1821.
  • 8. Malcomson, 350.
  • 9. Foster mss 336, Camden to Foster, 6 July, reply, 9 July 1821.
  • 10. J.C. Curwen, Observations on the State of Ireland (1818), ii. 292, 295-6.
  • 11. Gent. Mag. (1828), i. 271, 290; Wellington mss WP1/949/18.