George Tierney
Treasurer of the Navy
In office
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterHenry Addington
Preceded byCharles Bragge
Succeeded byGeorge Canning
President of the Board of Control
In office
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterThe Lord Grenville
Preceded byThomas Grenville
Succeeded byHon. Robert Dundas
Master of the Mint
In office
MonarchGeorge IV
Prime MinisterGeorge Canning
The Viscount Goderich
Preceded byHon. William Wellesley-Pole
Succeeded byJohn Charles Herries
Personal details
Born(1761-03-20)20 March 1761
Died25 January 1830(1830-01-25) (aged 68)
Savile Row, London
Political partyWhig
Alma materPeterhouse, Cambridge

George Tierney PC (20 March 1761 – 25 January 1830) was an Irish Whig politician. For much of his career he was in opposition to the governments of William Pitt and Lord Liverpool. From 1818 to 1821 he was Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.

Background and education

Born in Gibraltar, Tierney was the son of Thomas Tierney, a wealthy Irish merchant of London, who was living in Gibraltar as prize agent. He was sent to Eton and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he took the degree of Law in 1784.[1] He was called to the bar from Lincoln's Inn in the same year,[1] but abandoned law and plunged into politics.[2] On 10 July 1789 he married Anna Maria Miller of Stapleton in Gloucestershire; she died in 1844.[3]

Political career

In Le Boureau (1798), James Gillray caricatured Tierney as a French executioner.

Early career

Tierney contested Colchester in 1788, when both candidates received the same number of votes, but Tierney was declared elected. He was, however, defeated in the 1790 general election.[2]

He returned to Parliament in 1796 for Southwark and sat for that seat until 1806, and then represented in turn Athlone (1806–1807), Bandon (1807–1812), Appleby (1812–1818), and Knaresborough (1818–1830).[2] During his early years in Parliament he was known for his radical views and was a supporter of Charles James Fox. The French Revolution of 1789 was a polarising force in British Whig politics with some supporting the revolution, and others such as Edmund Burke strongly opposed to it. Because of his radical views, Tierney was often portrayed in caricatures in the costume of a French revolutionary.


When Charles James Fox seceded from the House of Commons, Tierney emerged as one of the most prominent opponents of William Pitt's foreign policy. In May 1798, Pitt accused him of want of patriotism. A duel ensued at Putney Heath on Sunday, 27 May 1798; but neither combatant was injured.[2]


In 1803, Tierney, partly because peace had been ratified with France at Amiens, and partly because Pitt was out of office, joined the ministry of Henry Addington as Treasurer of the Navy, and was created a Privy Councillor; but this alienated many of his supporters among the middle classes, and offended most of the influential Whigs. On the death of Fox in 1806 he joined William Grenville's Ministry of All the Talents as President of the Board of Control, with a seat in the cabinet, and thus brought himself once more into line with the Whigs.[2] He left office the following year when Grenville's government fell and was replaced by the Tories, who were to dominate office for the next generation. Tierney was in opposition for the following twenty years.


About a year after the death of George Ponsonby in 1817, Tierney reluctantly became the recognised leader of the opposition in the House of Commons. At first he was successful, with Whig gains being made at the 1818 general election. On 18 May 1819, Tierney moved a motion in the House of Commons for a committee on the state of the nation. This motion was defeated by 357 to 178, which was a division involving the largest number of MPs until the debates over the Reform bill in the early 1830s. Foord comments that "this defeat put an effective end to Tierney's leadership... Tierney did not disclaim the leadership until 23 Jan. 1821 ..., but he had ceased to exercise its functions since the great defeat".

Final years

Late in his career Tierney joined the government of Tory George Canning.

In George Canning's ministry, he was Master of the Mint, and when Lord Goderich succeeded to the lead Tierney was admitted to the cabinet; but he was already suffering from ill-health and died suddenly at Savile Row, London.[4][2]


  1. ^ a b "Tierney, George (TNY778G)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^ Burke, Edmund (1845). "Appendix to Chronicle - Deaths - March". The Annual Register, or a View of the History and Politics of the Year 1844. 86: 225.
  4. ^ Hamilton 1898.



Parliament of Great Britain Preceded bySir Edmund Affleck, BtSir Robert Smyth, BtH Member of Parliament for Colchester 1788–1790 With: Sir Robert Smyth, Bt Succeeded byRobert ThorntonGeorge Jackson Preceded byHenry ThorntonGeorge Thellusson Member of Parliament for Southwark 1796–1800 With: Henry Thornton Succeeded byParliament of the United Kingdom Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byParliament of Great Britain Member of Parliament for Southwark 1801–1806 With: Henry Thornton Succeeded byHenry ThorntonSir Thomas Turton, Bt Preceded byThomas Tyrwhitt Jones Member of Parliament for Athlone 1806–1807 Succeeded byHon. Henry Wellesley Preceded byViscount Boyle Member of Parliament for Bandon 1807–1812 Succeeded byRichard Bernard Preceded byJohn CourtenayJames Lowther Member of Parliament for Appleby 1812–1818 With: James Lowther Succeeded byGeorge FludyerLucius Concannon Preceded byLord John TownshendViscount Ossulston Member of Parliament for Knaresborough 1818–1830 With: Sir James Mackintosh Succeeded bySir James MackintoshHenry Brougham Political offices Preceded byCharles Bragge Treasurer of the Navy 1803–1804 Succeeded byGeorge Canning Preceded byThomas Grenville President of the Board of Control 1806–1807 Succeeded byHon. Robert Dundas Preceded byHon. William Wellesley-Pole Master of the Mint 1827–1828 Succeeded byJohn Charles Herries Preceded byGeorge Ponsonby Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons 1818–1821 VacantTitle next held byViscount Althorp from 1830 Party political offices Preceded byGeorge Ponsonby Leader of the Whig Party in the House of Commons 1818–1821 VacantTitle next held byViscount Althorp from 1830