Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, George Alexander

HAMILTON, GEORGE ALEXANDER (1802–1871), politician, was born at Tyrellas, co. Down, on 29 Aug. 1802. He was elder son of the Rev. George Hamilton of Hampton Hall, co. Dublin, who died in March 1833, by Anna, daughter of Thomas Pepper of Ballygarth Castle, co. Meath. His grandfather, George Hamilton (d. 1793), who was a baron of the exchequer from 1777 to 1793, was a nephew of Hugh Hamilton, bishop of Ossory [q. v.] He was sent to Rugby School in 1814, and matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, 15 Dec. 1818, took his B.A. degree in 1821, and was created D.C.L. 9 June 1853. Soon after leaving the university he settled on his paternal estate and began to take a part in the public political meetings in Dublin. At the general election in 1826 he became a candidate for the representation of that city, but after a severe and expensive contest lasting fourteen days was defeated by a small majority. In 1830 and 1832 he again unsuccessfully contested the seat for Dublin. At the close of another election for Dublin in January 1835 the numbers were: O'Connell 2,678, Ruthven 2,630, Hamilton 2,461, West 2,455. A petition was, however, presented; the commissioners sat from 3 May 1835 to 6 Jan. 1836, and from 29 Feb. to 26 May, when Hamilton and West were declared duly elected. In the following year, 1837, he again contested Dublin unsuccessfully, and although in presenting a petition he was supported by ‘the protestants of England,’ and a sum of money known as the Spottiswoode subscription was raised to assist him in paying his expenses, O'Connell on this occasion retained his seat. Throughout his career he took the side of the Orangemen, and was a prominent figure in the protestant demonstrations. On the formation of the ‘Lay Association for the Protection of Church Property’ in August 1834, he became the honorary secretary of the association, and for a long period worked energetically in the cause. In parliament he was chiefly known as having presented the petition of the celebrated protestant meeting of 14 Jan. 1837, which gave rise to much discussion and subsequently to the Earl of Roden's committee of inquiry. On 10 Feb. 1843, on the occurrence of a chance vacancy, he was returned by the university of Dublin, which constituency he represented without intermission until February 1859. To him was mainly due the formation of the Conservative Society for Ireland, which formed the rallying point for the conservative party after the passing of the Reform Bill. On 2 June 1845 he spoke on the subject of the ‘godless college bill.’ Another speech of 21 Aug. 1848 was printed with the title of ‘Education in Ireland. Report of Speech in the House of Commons on Mr. Hamilton's motion on above subject,’ 1848. On 21 June 1849 his proposal for an alteration in education in Ireland so as to make it acceptable to the protestant clergy was lost by 162 to 102 votes. He held the financial secretaryship of the treasury under Lord Derby's administration from March to December 1852, and again on the return of the conservatives to power from March 1858 to January 1859. At this latter date he was appointed permanent secretary of the treasury. He was sworn a member of the privy council 7 Aug. 1869, and in the following year was named one of the commissioners of the church temporalities in Ireland. He was a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for the county of Dublin, and an LL.D. of Dublin University. He died at Kingstown, Ireland, 17 Sept. 1871. His wife, whom he married 1 May 1835, was Amelia Fancourt, daughter of Joshua Uhthoff of Bath.

[Portraits of Eminent Conservatives, 2nd ser. (1846), with portrait; Burke's Landed Gentry; Times, 20 Sept. 1871, p. 6; Illustrated London News, 11 Dec. 1852, pp. 517–18, with portrait, and 23 Sept. 1871, p. 283.]

G. C. B.