Petty, William

, descendant of the preceding, second lord Wycombe, and first marquis of Lansdown, was born in May 1737, and succeeded his father as lord Wycombe, earl of Shelburne, in the month of May 1761. In February 1765 he was married to lady Sophia Carteret, daughter of the late earl Granvitle, by whom he became possessed of large estates, particularly that beautiful spot Lansdown Hill, Bath, from which he took his last title. By this lady, who died in 1771, he had a son, John Henry, who succeeded him in his titles, and who is since dead, leaving no male heir. The marquis married, secondly, lady Louisa Fiizpatrick, by whom, who died in 1789, he had another son, lord Henry, the present marquis of Lansdown. His lordship being intended for the army, he, at a fit a^e, obta tied a commission in the guards, and served wuh the British troops in Germany under prince Ferdinand, and gave signal proofs of great personal courage at the battles of Campen and Minden. In December 1760 he was appointed aid-de-camp to the king, George III. with the rank of colonel. As a political man, he joined the party of the earl of Bute; and in 1762 he eagerly defended the court on the question respecting the preliminaries of peace. In the following year he was sworn of the privy council, and appointed first lord of the board of trade, which he soon quitted, and with it his connexion with the court and ministry, and aiUiched himself in a short time to lords Chatham and Camden. When the Rockingham administration was displaced in 1766, and lord Chatham was called upon to form a new administration, he appointed lord Sheiburne secretary of state of the southern department, to which was annexed the department of the colonies. But this he resigned when lord Chatham withdrew in 1768, and from this; period, continued in strong opposition to all the measures of government during the American war till the termination of lord North’s ministry, in the spring of 1782. He was then appointed secretary of state for the foreign department in the Rockingham administration, and upon the death of that nobleman he succeeded to the office of minister. This measure gave great | offence to Mr. Fox and his friends, but his lordship did not quit his post. His first object was to make peace; but when the treaty was brought before the parliament, lord North and Mr. Fox had united in a most disgraceful coalition, which, however, for a time was irresistible, and early in 1783 lord Shelburne resigned. When at the end of that year Mr. Pitt overthrew the coalition administration, it was expected that lord Shelburne would have been at the head of the new government. He formed, however, no part of the arrangement, and appeared to have been satisfied wirh being created marquis of Lansdown. He now retired to a private life; but on the breaking out of the French revolution, came forward again in constant and decisive opposition to the measures of administration, in which he continued to the day of his death, May 7, 1805. His lordship always had the reputation of a man of considerable political knowledge, improved by a most extensive foreign correspondence, and a study of foreign affairs and foreign relations, which was very uncommon, and gave his speeches in parliament, while in opposition, very great weight. Many of his ablest efforts in this way, however, were rather historical than argumentative, excellent matter of information, but seldom ending in those results which shew a capacity for the formation of able and beneficial plans. It was his misfortune, throughout almost the whole of his political career, to have few personal adherents, and to possess little of the confidence of either of the great parties who divided the parliament in the memorable contests respecting the policy of the American war, and the propriety of our interfering in the continental effort to suppress the consequences of the French revolution. His lordship was possessed of perhaps the most valuable and complete library of history and political documents, both primed and manuscript, that ever was accumulated by any individual or family. The printed part was dispersed by auction after his lordship’s death, but the manuscripts were rescued Irom this—shall we say, disgrace by the interference of the trustees of the British Museum, at whose representation the whole was purchased by a parliamentary grant for the sum of 4925l. It is remarkable that this was the average valuation of three parties who had no connection with the other in the inspection of the Mss. They are now deposited in the above great national collection, and besides their importance as a miscellaneous collection of historical, | biographical, and literary matter, they must be considered as highly interesting to future politicians and statesmen when we add that they were scarcely, if at all known, to those able antiquaries and inquirers into political history, Collins, Murdin, Jones, or Birch. 1


Collins’s Peerage, by sir E. Brydges, &c. &c.