LONSDALE, James Lowther, earl of (1736–1802), politician & landowner. ALS [to Henry Dundas] 1793


LONSDALE, James Lowther, earl of (1736–1802), politician & landowner. ALS [to Henry Dundas] 1793

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LONSDALE, James Lowther, earl of (1736–1802), politician & landowner. Autograph letter signed to an unnamed correspondent [Henry Dundas],  2 sides plus integral blank with docket, folio, February 16th 1793, thanking him for his letter, but expressing frustration at not having received a positive answer, which prevents him "from making the necessary Returns", and pursuing his request "Notwithstanding Lord Amhurst's unjustifiable conduct towards me in the last War, of which you yourself were a Witness ............ I would .... talk to him upon the subject of the letter I troubled you with, could I think it of any avail ..............  as my Commission as Brigadr. General was acknowledged at the War Office ...... during the German War, & also in the American War, ...... thro' the Secretary of States Office, signed by Mr. Pitt ........  I am led to suppose that the Secretary of State is the person I am to apply to upon the present occasion", and in closing  "I shall be much obliged to you if you will let me have an answer as soon as possible, for I desirous of shewing myself forward in His Majesty's Service". Ex collection Sir Thomas Phillips. Three of the four margins grubby.


Lonsdale inherited vast estates, especially in Cumberland and Westmorland, and throughout his life lavished money on elections, in an attempt to exercise political control. Always seeking preferment, he hounded the government for a peerage (eventually granted by William Pitt in 1784), but was refused a dukedom in 1792.

From internal evidence, Lonsdale's letter is directed to the Secretary of State, Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville (1742–1811), a longstanding ally of Pitt. The letter is written a fortnight after France declared war upon Britain (on 1st February,1793), and although Lord Amherst had been brought out of retirement at the end of January as General in command the army in Great Britain, Lonsdale clearly saw little point in pressing the matter with him. Application to the Secretary of State had, on the other hand, evidently been successful in obtaining a military position in the past. A year later, on 14th March 1794, Lonsdale was appointed colonel in the army during service.

Disliked by many, critics such as Horace Walpole, considered Lonsdale to be ‘equally unamiable in public and private’, while at the stronger end of the scale, the Rev.Alexander Carlyle believed him to be ‘more detested than any man alive as a shameless political sharper, a domestic bashaw, and an intolerant tyrant over his tenants and dependents’.

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