George Ponsonby

Ponsonby, George, Lord-Chancellor, was born 5th March 1755. [His father resigned the speakership of the Irish House of Commons in 1771, rather than be the mouthpiece of a resolution passed by the popular party.] He studied at Cambridge, was called to the Irish Bar in 1780, and in 1782 was appointed counsel to the Revenue Commissioners, with a salary of £1,200. This post he lost on the recall of the Duke of Portland. Entering Parliament, he joined the popular party, and with Grattan and his friends struggled against the system of jobbery and corruption then prevailing in the House of Commons. He was the personal friend of Earl Fitzwilliam, and strenuously supported the Emancipation Act of 1793, and the further efforts for the relief of the Catholics. He offered an unflinching opposition to the measure of Union.

On the advent to power of the Whigs in 1806 he was appointed Lord-Chancellor of Ireland. He secured for his friend Curran the appointment of Master of the Rolls, with £4,000 per annum; “but, unfortunately, there were some matters in this arrangement which, instead of cementing the existing friendship, had the effect of creating a long and painful separation between the two. … During his [Mr. Ponsonby's] last illness, Mr. Curran being in London, became reconciled to his old friend, and, after his lamented death, took every opportunity of recalling his great qualities of head and heart, and the long and faithful services by which the name of Ponsonby is endeared to Ireland.” On change of Ministry in 1807, he entered the House of Commons, where he took a prominent part for several years, directing his attention principally to measures of law reform.

He was seized with paralysis in the House of Commons, and died 8th July 1817, aged 62. He was buried at Kensington. Henry Grattan, Jun., says:

“He possessed a love of liberty, and of a sort that would not suffer it to overturn the Government. His aristocracy was not a bad one; he was of use in Ireland, and deserved well of her; he had a public mind, and felt for his country; he had a just reserved sense of her injuries, and would not omit any occasion to redress them; he was a good patron and a good father, and had a good understanding. His voice was soft and pleasing; his manner calm and impressive; his temper unruffled and happy; vivacity characterized his mind, and generosity his disposition. He was an able speaker, and possessed an argumentative humour, a cunning shrewdness, and a knowledge of the folly of mankind.”


154. Grattan Henry, his Life and Times: Henry Grattan. 5 vols. London, 1839-'46.

76. Chancellors of Ireland, and Keepers of the Great Seal: J. Roderick O'Flaherty. 2 vols. London, 1870.