Frederick Sylvester North Douglas, MP

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Frederick Sylvester North Douglas (1791–1819), politician and classical scholar, was the only son of Sylvester Douglas, Baron Glenbervie, and the Hon. Catherine Anne North, eldest daughter of Lord North, 2nd Earl of Guilford.  He was born in Bedford Square, London, on 8 February 1791 and christened at home by the rector of St Giles-in-the-Fields, Bloomsbury.

Delicate and precocious, he was educated at Sunbury School, proceeding to Westminster School in 1801 and Christ Church, Oxford, in 1806. Admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1807, he was not called to the bar. Taking a first in classics and a top second in maths at Oxford in 1809 (MA, 1813), he went to Edinburgh to pursue his studies, but was taken ill. Physically he resembled his mother's family.

In 1810 he embarked on a two-year tour of Greece and the Near East, under the aegis of his philhellenic uncle Frederick North, fifth earl of Guilford (1766–1827), colonial governor in Ceylon. His Essay on Certain Points of Resemblance between the Ancient and the Modern Greeks went into a second edition in June 1813, in which year he acted as Germaine de Staël's guide to Oxford and deputy secretary of the politically ambivalent Grillion's Club. He had entered parliament in 1812 for Banbury, the North family borough, of which his father was recorder. His political independence soon alarmed his father. His maiden speech was lukewarm in support of the Christianization of India and he consistently voted for Catholic relief and abolition of the slave trade. More conventionally he was shy of parliamentary reform, apart from sponsorship of a bill (lost on 16 May 1814) to stop payment of non-resident electors' expenses. He opposed the peacetime reduction of the militia in 1815; he had been a major in the Surrey militia since 1813, and was a captain in the Oxfordshire yeomanry in 1817.

During the recess in 1814 he interviewed Bonaparte, who liked him best of his English visitors on Elba. From February 1816, when he consulted the speaker about his debating style, which was disliked by reporters, he acted increasingly under the whig opposition, joining Brooks's Club on 7 May. He voted against the address and tried to exempt Scotland from measures against sedition in the 1817 session, to the chagrin of his father, whom he joined on a continental tour in the autumn. In spite of defending his father and uncle in debate in 1818, he also delivered a speech on 15 May against the Aliens Bill which went unanswered by the administration. In 1819 he conceded the need for piecemeal parliamentary reform, and in his last speeches in June, he spoke in favour of South American independence and educational reform.

On 19 July 1819 he married a whig bride, Harriet Wrightson (d. 1864), eldest daughter of William Wrightson of Cusworth, Yorkshire. He died on 21 October 1819, after a bout of jaundice, in Brook Street, Westminster. According to one obituary, he had ‘enlivened every society by his presence’

His widow married in 1825 Colonel Henry Hely Hutchinson and died on 16 July 1864.



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    Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024