Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzroy, Augustus Henry
FITZROY, AUGUSTUS HENRY, third Duke of Grafton (1735–1811), grandson of Charles (1683-1757), second duke and eldest surviving son of Lord Augustus Fitzroy (d. 28 May 1741), by Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel William Cosby of Strodbell in Ireland, governor of New York, was born 1 Oct. 1735, and educated at Westminster School and at Peterhouse, Cambridge, taking the degree of M.A. in 1753, as Earl of Euston. Stonehewer, the friend of Gray, was his tutor at Cambridge, and afterwards his private secretary and intimate friend. Grafton subsequently declined the degree of LL.D. usually conferred on its chancellor, from a dislike to subscribing the articles of the church of England. He was returned in December 1756 as member by the boroughs of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire and Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, when he chose the latter constituency. On 6 May 1757 he succeeded as third Duke of Grafton, and was at once created lord-lieutenant of Suffolk, a position which he held until 1763, when he was dismissed by Lord Bute, and again from 1769 to 1790. He was appointed in November 1756 as lord of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George III, but resigned the post early in June 1758. His first active appearance in politics was on the accession to power of Lord Bute, when he flung himself into opposition. At this time he was intimately allied with Lord Temple, and followed his lead by visiting Wilkes in the Tower in May 1763 'to hear from himself his own story and his defence, and to show that no influence ought to stop the means of every man's justifying himself from an accusation, though it should be of the most heinous nature,' but he offended Temple by refusing in that month to become bail for Wilkes. His rise in parliament was so rapid that when Pitt was summoned by the king to form a ministry in August 1763 he had it in contemplation to enlist Grafton as a member of his cabinet. In December of that year Horace Walpole records in his letters that the Duke of Grafton is much commended, and, although he had never been in office, he was now in the front rank of politics. Pitt was again called upon to form a ministry, when he named Grafton and himself as the principal secretaries of state ; but the projected administration fell through in consequence of Lord Temple's refusal to take office. The Marquis of Rockingham thereupon took the treasury, and Grafton became his secretary of state for the northern department (July 1765). Then, as ever, he was anxious to obtain Pitt's assistance, but the great commoner was not enamoured of the new cabinet, and especially objected to the Duke of Newcastle's inclusion in it. Weak as it was, without the support of the king or of Pitt, and without cohesion among themselves, the Rockingham ministry dragged on for some months. Grafton threw up the seals in May 1766, when he stated in the House of Lords that he had not gone out of office 'from a love of ease and indulgence to his private amusements, as had been falsely reported, but because they wanted strength, which one man only could supply ;' and that 'though he had carried a general's staff, he was ready to take up a mattock or spade under that able and great minister.' At the end of July all Grafton's colleagues followed his example, and Pitt was forced to take upon himself the cares of office. Grafton very reluctantly accepted the headship of the treasury, and Pitt, to the disgust of his friends, took a peerage and the privy seal (July 1766). With a view to strengthening the cabinet by the inclusion of the Duke of Bedford's party, the first lord endeavoured to obtain Lord Gower in lieu of Lord Egniont as first lord of the admiralty, but in this he was unsuccessful. The new ministry was soon involved in difficulty. Wilkes came to London, and on 1 Nov. 1766 addressed to Grafton a letter in which he professed loyalty and implored pardon, but on the advice of Chatham no notice was taken of the communication, and Wilkes thereupon repaired to Paris and sent a second communication on 12 Dec. The state of the East India Company presented even greater dangers to the new administration. The views of Conway and Charles Townshend were antagonistic to those of Chatham, and but for the latter's illness, Townshend would have been dismissed from office. Their defeat over the amount of the land tax was 'a most disheartening circumstance,' and when Townshend was taunted with the necessity of providing some means to recoup the reduction, he, 'without the concurrence of the rest of the cabinet, intimated that he had thought of a method of taxing America without giving offence, and the ministry found themselves under the necessity of bringing forward the port duties upon glass, colours, paper, and tea.' Grafton became more anxious than ever for Chatham's advice in the cabinet's deliberations, and for his presence in parliament. An interview between them was at last arranged on 31 May 1767, but the only effect of their consultation was for the ministry to continue in its course, with Conway taking the lead in the commons. As Chatham's malady became worse, it was necessary for Grafton either to retire, which he often threatened, or to assume greater responsibility in business. He adopted the latter alternative, and from September 1767 the ministry was known by his name. Townshend died in that month and Lord North succeeded as chancellor of the exchequer, and Lord Gower with the members of the Bedford party was included in the government in the following December. The effect of these changes was to render the ministry more united in council but to weaken its liberal character. Wilkes was returned for Middlesex, and Grafton, though personally adverse to arbitrary acts of power, was at the head of affairs when an elected representative to parliament was first expelled the House of Commons, and then declared incapable of election. The cabinet decided that the port duties levied in the American colonies should be repealed, but were divided upon the question whether the duty upon tea should not be retained as an assertion of the right. Grafton was for the repeal of all, but, 'to his great surprise and mortification, it was carried against him by the casting vote of his friend Lord Rochford, whom he had himself lately introduced into the cabinet.' To make matters worse, he began to neglect business, and to outrage the lax morality of his day, thinking, to use the strong language of Horace Walpole, 'the world should be postponed to a whore and a horse race.' Junius thundered against him, accusing him, as hereditary ranger of Whittlebury and Salcey forests, of malversation in claiming and cutting some of the timber — an accusation which would appear from the official minutes in 'Notes and Queries,' 3rd ser. viii. 231-3, to have been unfounded — and denouncing him, both in his letters and in a poem called 'Harry and Nan,' an elegy in the manner of Tibullus, which was printed in 'Almon's Political Register,' ii. 431 (1768), for what could not be gainsaid, his connection with Nancy Parsons. This woman was the daughter of a tailor in Bond Street, and she first lived with Hoghton or Horton, a West India captive merchant, with whom she went to Jamaica, but from whom she fled to England. She is described as 'the Duke of Grafton's Mrs. Horton, the Duke of Dorset's Mrs. Horton, everybody's Mrs. Horton.' Her features are well known from Gainsborough's portrait, and she was endowed with rare powers of attraction, for which Grafton threw away 'his beautiful and most accomplished wife,' and Charles, second viscount Maynard, raised her to the peerage by marrying her 12 June 1776. It was in April 1768 that the prime minister appeared with her at the opera and thus afforded Junius an opportunity for some of his keenest invectives. Under the influence of these private distractions and public troubles over Wilkes and America, resignation of the premiership was often threatened by Grafton. In October 1768 Chatham resigned his place as lord privy seal, although several of his friends still adhered to their places. At the close of 1769 Chatham recovered the full possession of his faculties, and the effect upon the ministry of his reappearance in the political world was instantaneous. Lord Granby voted against them, and then resigned. Lord Camden was dismissed from his post of lord chancellor, and the seals were given to Charles Yorke. The death of the new chancellor followed immediately on his appointment, and Grafton, naturally timid and indolent, and with a set of discontented friends around him, seized the opportunity of resigning on 28 Jan. 1770. His temporary difference with Chatham was intensified by some words which passed between them in the following March, when Grafton was pronounced unequal 'to the government of a great nation.' After much persuasion from the king's friends he took office as privy seal in Lord North's administration (June 1771), but, 'with a kind of proud humility,' refused a seat in the cabinet. This step exposed him to varying comment. The king wrote, 'Nothing can be more handsome than his manner of accepting the privy seal,' but Horace Walpole sneeringly wrote, that it came 'of not being proud.' Grafton himself gave out in after years that he accepted this office in the hope of preventing the quarrel with America from being pushed to extremities, and his views probably always leant to the side of the colonists. In August 1775 he wrote to Lord North, warmly urging the desirability of a reconciliation, but the prime minister did not reply for seven weeks, when the substance of his answer was a draft of the king's speech. His resignation was daily expected, and on 3 Nov. the king thought that the seal of office should be sent for, but on 9 Nov. Grafton resigned, and at once took public action against his late colleagues. An attempt was made in February 1779 to attach him and some of Chatham's followers to the North ministry, but it failed, and he remained out of office until the foundation of the Rockingham ministry in March 1782, when he joined the cabinet as lord privy seal. Though he acquiesced in the accession of Lord Shelburne on Rockingham's death in the following July, he did not cordially act with his new chief, and the downfall of the administration in April 1783 was probably a relief to him. From that time he remained out of office, and to his credit be it said that although he had a numerous family he obtained 'no place, pension, or reversion whatever.' He had been declining in health for more than two years, but his fatal illness lasted for some weeks. He died at Euston Hall, Suffolk, on 14 March 1811, and was buried at Euston on 21 March. He was invested K.G. at St. James's Palace 20 Sept. 1769, was recorder of Thetford and Coventry, high steward of Dartmouth, hereditary ranger of Whittlebury and Salcey forests, and the holder of several sinecures, including places in the king's bench, common pleas, and court of exchequer. His first wife, whom he married 29 Jan. 1756, was Anne, daughter and heiress of Henry Liddell, baron Ravensworth. After a married life of twelve years she eloped with John Fitzpatrick, second earl of Upper Ossory, whom she married on 26 March 1769, the act dissolving her first marriage having come into law three days previously. By her the duke had two sons, George Henry, fourth duke [q. v.], and Lord Charles [q. v.], and a daughter, Georgiana. He married in May 1769 Elizabeth, third daughter of the Rev. Sir Richard Wrottesley, dean of Windsor. She is described as 'not handsome, but quiet and reasonable, and having a very amiable character.' She bore him twelve children.
Grafton's tastes first leant entirely to pleasure. His pack of hounds at Wakefield Lodge, his official residence in Whittlebury forest, and the races of Newmarket absorbed his thoughts and his spare time. Latterly he became of a more serious disposition, and he was for many years a regular worshipper at the Unitarian chapel in Essex Street, Strand, London. He was the author of : 1. 'Hints submitted to the serious attention of the Clergy, Nobility, and Gentry, by a Layman,' 1789, two editions, the first edition having been called in in consequence of the king's illness. It urged the propriety of amendment of life by the upper classes, and greater attention to public worship, to insure which a revision of the liturgy was necessary. 2. 'The Serious Reflections of a Rational Christian from 1788 to 1797' [anon.], 1797. In favour of unitarianism and against the infallibility of the writers of the Old and New Testaments. It was through some of Bishop Watson's little tracts that Grafton first turned his attention to religious inquiry, and when his views were condemned by several writers they found a defender in the bishop. A volume of 'Considerations on the expediency of Revising the Liturgy and Articles of the Church of England' (1790, two edits.), written by Watson, was printed under the duke's auspices, and seven hundred copies of an edition of Griesbach's Greek New Testament, with the various readings in manuscript, printed at his sole expense in 1796, were gratuitously circulated according to his direction. Late in life he wrote a 'Memoir' of his public career, and several extracts from it have been published in Lord Stanhope's 'History,' Walpole's 'Memoirs of George III,' vol. iv., Appendix, and in Campbell's 'Lives of the Chancellors ;' but the whole work has not yet been printed, although it has for some time been included among the publications of the Camden Society. On 29 Nov. 1768 Grafton was unanimously elected chancellor of Cambridge University, and on 1 July 1769 he was installed in the senate house. Through Stonehewer's interest Gray had been appointed by Grafton to the professorship of modern history at Cambridge, and he thought himself bound in gratitude to write on the installation. The ode was begun in 1768, finished in April 1769, and printed after July in that year. Much to Dr. Burney's chagrin it was set to music by Dr. John Randall, the then music professor. Particulars of the proceedings on this occasion may be found in Nichols's 'Illustrations of Literature,' v. 315- 317; Cradock's 'Memoirs,' i. 105-17, iv. 156-9 ; and in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' xxxix. 361-2. His expenses on this occasion were estimated at 2,000l., and to celebrate his appointment he offered 500l. towards lighting and paving the town. The duke's career disappointed the expectations of his friends. His disinterestedness of motive and the sincerity of his friendship have received high praise, nor was he wanting in judgment or good sense, but these qualities were allied with many drawbacks, and notably with timidity of conduct, which led him in times of danger to threaten resignation of office, and disregard of public opinion in social life. It is perhaps his highest praise that Fox in 1775 wrote that he could act with him 'with more pleasure in any possible situation than with any one I have been acquainted with,' and Chatham in 1777 sent him 'unfeigned respect.'[Grenville Papers, passim ; Stanhope's History, 1713-83, vols. v-vii. ; Chatham Corresp. passim ; Walpole's Memoirs of Reign of George III; Walpole's Letters, iii. 138, iv. 139, 500, v. 106, 163, 225, 305, 347, vii. 89; Corresp. of George III and North, i. 75-6, 281-3, ii. 225; Almon's Anecdotes, i. 1-34; Gent. Mag. 1811, p. 302; Taylor's Sir Joshua Reynolds, i. 176 ; Dyer's Cambridge, ii. 29-31 ; C. H. Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, iv. 353-61; Gray's works (1884 ed.), i. 92-7, ii. 242, 277, iii. 318, 342-6; Baker's Northamptonshire, ii. 170-1 ; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. vi. 768 ; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, i. 582, ii. 67, viii. 145, ix. 87, 457, 461, 487; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 456, 462, iii. 57 ; Belsham's Lindsey, pp. 320-36 ; John Williams's Belsham, pp. 611-12 ; Uncorrupted Christianity, &c., a sermon on the duke's death by Belsham, 1811.]