Isaac Barre

Barre, Isaac, the son of a Huguenot refugee, was born in Dublin in the first half of the 18th century. Educated at Trinity College, he took his degree in 1745; he entered the army, and rose to high rank, being Adjutant-General under Wolfe at Quebec in 1759. Afterwards, in Parliament, he distinguished himself by his opposition to the American Stamp Act. In 1776, he was made Vice-Treasurer of Ireland and Privy Councillor, and subsequently held other offices of trust under Government. He died in 1802.

Note from Addenda:

Barre, Isaac, Colonel, a distinguished politician, was born in Dublin in 1726. His parents, who kept a small shop, were Huguenot refugees. Isaac graduated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1745. He was intended for the Bar; Garrick urged him to try the stage; he chose the army, and in 1746 received a commission as ensign, and joined his regiment in Flanders. He served in Scotland and at Gibraltar, and in 1759, as major of brigade, was attached to the expedition under Wolfe for the reduction of Canada, and soon won the friendship and respect of his general. In the fighting before Quebec, Barre received a severe wound in the cheek, and an injury to one eye which ultimately resulted in total blindness. The death of Wolfe was a great blow to his prospects. Upon his return to England he became intimate with Lord FitzMaurice, who on succeeding his father, Lord Shelburne, in 1761, and vacating the family borough of Wycombe, thenceforth nominated him to the seat. Barre took a prominent part in the politics of Great Britain as an unflinching Liberal. In his place in the House he is described as a "black, robust, middle-aged man, of a military figure; a bullet, lodged loosely in his cheek, had distorted his face, and had imparted a savage glare to one eye."

A writer in Macmillan's Magazine for December 1876, who has given us an excellent sketch of his career, says: "The pre-eminence of Barre as a speaker was due principally to his extraordinary power of invective; but it would be a great injustice to suppose that there was nothing but invective in his speeches. On the contrary, some of them abound with wise maxims, and good, sound, common sense. He was generally on what we would call the constitutional side; and as the great constitutional questions of that day have all been settled in his favour, it is naturally difficult for us to help being struck by his arguments. But Barre does not deserve our unqualified approbation. He was essentially a party man. He spoke for his party, and he voted with his party. Walpole called him a bravo, and nothing can so well illustrate the dependence of his position than the fact that, clever and eloquent as he was, the first trace we find of his making an original motion was in 1778, seventeen years after he entered Parliament... Barre found himself fighting the battles of the people, and his eloquence was of a sort peculiarly adapted to such warfare."

Under the Granville government in 1763, he became Adjutant-General of the British forces, and Governor of Stirling Castle — appointments worth £4,000 per annum. In the same year he was brought by Lord Shelburne into close alliance with the elder Pitt, but in consequence of his opposition to the wishes of George III., he lost his offices. His reputation as a speaker gradually rose higher and higher: he possessed the power of making himself feared: his invective was at times unsparing. When Government introduced the American Stamp Act, in 1765, he commenced a course of opposition and advocacy of the cause of the Colonies, to which he in the main adhered after the Declaration of Independence, and up to the conclusion of the Revolutionary war. When Pitt, created Lord Chatham, was recalled in 1766, Barre became Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, and was restored to his rank in the army.

He took a prominent place in the affairs of India. In 1768 Shelburne and Barre were again in opposition. He took the most active part in the Wilkes trials, attacking the Government with unsparing violence. In 1773 he was again compelled to resign his appointments in the army, and arrayed himself with the Rockiugham party. Upon its advent to power he was appointed Treasurer of the Navy, and a sinecure of £3,200 as "Clerk of the Pells" was made over to him. In 1783 Barre became totally blind, for some time disappeared from Parliament, and on his return found a new generation of statesmen and a new set of ideas sprung up, and himself out of fashion and in the background. In 1790 a complete divergence of opinion on politics severed a friendship of more than thirty years' standing with Lord Shelburne (become the Marquis of Lansdowne), and Barre vacated his seat in Parliament. He lived in retirement the remaining years of his life, and died in London, 20th July 1802, aged about 75.[146, 233, 305]


151. Graduates of the University of Dublin, to 16th December 1868: Rev. James H. Todd, D.D. Dublin, 1869.

166. Huguenots in England and Ireland: Samuel Smiles. London, 1867.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

305. Shelburne, William, Earl of, Life: Lord Edward FitzMaurice. 2 vols. London, 1875-'76.