Now for some details
The story of this rapid rise and sudden decline is quite dramatic. Some of the highlights mentioned above that must be expanded upon in this biographical sketch include information on his marriage, his management of widespread properties and debt in Ireland and England, his military responsibilities with the Irish Militia during the rebellion in 1778-9, and his political stand against the union of Ireland with Great Britain, including the consequences of this stand. Statements in his last will and testament and his early death are of special interest in relationship to the “Garrow’s Law” storyline.
The land Arthur Hill inherited in County Down, Ireland included estates at Blessington and Loughbrickland and at Banbridge. The subsequent growth of Banbridge as a centre of the linen trade greatly fostered the value of these properties. It included the town and parliamentary borough of Hillsborough.
When Arthur Hill married Mary Sandys (one of the greatest heiresses in his day), on 29 June 1786 his landholding greatly increased, both in Ireland and in England. With this marriage came the estates of the late Lord Sandys, Baron of Ombersley, in the County of Worcester. In this way the estates at Edenderry in King’s County (nearly 14,000 acres in extent) and at Dundrum in Co. Down came into the family. And in England the 5,000-acre estate at Easthampstead Park in Berkshire would become a second home. Malcomson quotes Arthur as describing his new wealth that resulted from his marriage as “Her fortune is more than he wants or wished for, though it will do him no harm.” However the ongoing management of this property became a challenge.
As a land owner in the late 1700s with a very large estate, he had to manage a very large, complex and costly financial world. John Barry, the author of “Hillsborough, A Parish in the Ulster Plantation” (1962) who served as Rector of Hillsborough for many years, described Arthur as carrying on the work of his father. For many years Arthur held liberal views as he served as a landowner, with tenant farmers engaged in agriculture. And he held liberal views toward the various religious groups in the area, giving his support to the cause of religious toleration. Indeed, his new Hillsborough home was built almost virtually on the street in Hillsborough, not at the end of a long avenue in a remote parkland… in the midst of the local people. .
As the Marquess of Downshire, Arthur Hill had significant government and military responsibilities. Among other responsibilities he served as Governor of County Down, and as Colonel of the Royal Downshire Militia. As a politician, Arthur Hill was an aggressive campaigner in getting votes, and in directing the voting in his own land holdings. He served as a member of the English Parliament from 1774 to 1784 and as a member of the Irish Parliament from 1776 to 1793. Because of his considerable wealth he was a force in debating issues. However he was conflicted in taking a stand on some issues. His interests in what he considered best for Ireland, sometime were in conflict with what he thought best for England. In this regard his stand against Union is a good example. The legislation being debated was the proposal to unite the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom, the UK as it is today. The reasons for and against doing this are extensive and complex.
In the end Arthur Hill as the 2nd Marquess of Downshire worked with all his political power to defeat this Union in direct opposition to the government. Union passed in both English and Irish parliaments, and became law. Even after passage Arthur opposed the action. John Barry notes: “he voiced the strongest protest and prophesied that it was a course of action that could only bring loss and strife.” Barry then notes: “After a century and a half of subsequent history we may perhaps regret that those in power did not pay heed to what the Marquis of Downshire had to say.” However, the government’s response to Downshire’s fight against union was swift and ruthless. The specific event that triggered this government action against Downshire was something he did as leader of his militia.
The Royal Downshire Militia was one of many militias, a citizen’s army established in Ireland in 1793 to deal with the threat of the French Revolutionary War spreading to Ireland. The English army had the responsibility to protect Ireland from external attack and from civil unrest. There were outlaw forces in Ireland inviting Catholic France to free Catholic Ireland from English rule, and indeed the French did come, but were unsuccessful. Arthur Hill proposed the Militia legislation in the Irish Parliament and when it passed became Colonel in charge of the Royal Downshire Militia of County Down. The militias operated as citizen part-time units, and were in theory a part of the regular army. Arthur Hill’s Royal Downshires was the largest of the militias. The militia system was critical in suppressing the French invasion and the internal rebellion of 1798. Details of Arthur Hill’s role in the militia movement is available in the book, “The Irish Militia, 1793-1802, Ireland’s Forgotten Army” by Ivan F. Nelson, (2007), and in even greater detail in a privately held paper written by Nelson, “The Marquess of Downshire and the Royal Downshire Militia, 1793-1800”.
The event that led to Downshire’s trouble was a petition he sent to his regiment to be signed by those who were against Union, to reinforce his fight against Union. Members of his regiment, officers and men, freeholders or not, could voice their opinions. Citizen soldiers had the right to do this, while those in the professional army did not. This was a moot point for those political forces supporting Union. Two letters went up the line reporting on Hill’s petition, all the way to Cornwallis, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Commander in Chief with direct responsibility for the militia. Cornwallis immediately ordered an investigation, and outlined to Portland, Home Secretary, what he thought necessary to do. The reports made their way to King George III, who ordered that Lord Downshire was to be dismissed as colonel of the Royal Downshire Militia, as governor of County Down, and to be removed from the Privy Council. Nelson reports that Downshire went to see the King to justify himself for opposing the question of Union. And the King is reported to have said, “that if any person had told him that he (Lord Downshire) would have held such a conduct, His Majesty would have insisted considering what had passed between them that it was absolutely impossible.” On February 12, 1800 Hill was stripped of all positions he held in government and all income streams that could be taken from him.
Some information on Arthur Hill has become available on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Hill,_2nd_Marquess_of_Downshire