George Ponsonby

George Ponsonby

George Ponsonby PC (5 March 1755 – 8 July 1817), Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was the second surviving son of Hon. John Ponsonby (1713–1789), speaker of the Irish House of Commons (1756–71), and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (1723–1796), daughter of the 3rd Duke of Devonshire. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge.

A barrister, he became a member of the Irish parliament in 1776 and was chancellor of the Irish exchequer in 1782, afterwards taking a prominent part in the debates on the question of Roman Catholic relief, and leading the opposition to the union of the parliaments.

After 1800 Ponsonby represented Wicklow and then Tavistock in the united parliament; in 1806 to 1807 he was Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and from 1808 to 1817 he was the recognised leader of the opposition in the British House of Commons.

Ponsonby had been selected as the first recognised leader of the opposition, rather than leader of an opposition, when the two leading Whig peers Lord Grenville and Earl Grey, proposed him to Whig MPs. Ponsonby was described by Foorde as "a little known mediocrity who was related to Lady Grey". He proved to be a weak leader, but was unwilling to resign and so retained the leadership of the party in the House of Commons until his death. He was succeeded as party leader by George Tierney.

He left an only daughter when he died in London on 8 July 1817.


* "Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922", edited by B. M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978)
* "His Majesty's Opposition 1714-1830", by Archibald S. Foorde (Oxford University Press 1964)

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