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John Ponsonby 1st Viscount Ponsonby 1770 – 1855

May 20, 2010

John Ponsonby 1st Viscount Ponsonby, GCB 1770 – 1855 was a British diplomat and politician.

John Ponsonby was an advocate of homeopathy, and a close friend of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, and Guiseppe Belluomini,

John Ponsonby encouraged Frederick Hervey Foster Quin to come to London to ‘try your luck, or rather show your science; if you fail, what then, you can only fail by the failure of homeopathy; you know that to be true, and that it cannot fail…’

John Ponsonby was envoy at Naples from 8 June to 9 November 1832, just after Cosmo Maria De Horatiis conducted clinical trials into homeopathy in Naples at the Military Hospital of the Trinity, and Cosmo Maria De Horatiis published the results of these trials in 1828-9, causing a great sensation in Naples.

John Ponsonby was the son of William Brabazon Ponsonby 1st Baron Ponsonby, and his sister Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby (1776–1861) was married to Charles Grey 2nd Earl Grey, and his brother William Ponsonby served under Arthur Wellesley 1st Duke of Wellington, and was killed at the Battle of Waterloo.

John Ponsonby wrote to Frederick Hervey Foster Quin in August 1830:

Your letter shows that you are far from the proper degree of confidence in the permanent tranquillity of Paris. I think you will have your throat cut in 1832, about midsummer. I see Seneca Dupin has been successfully lecturing the young sovereign; he had better turn his thoughts to the comfortable rewards his predecessor received for his wise counsels’…

‘I cannot tell you how much pleasure it gives me to hear from you; the statements of facts you furnish me with are very interesting, and certainly your views of the state of affairs equally so.

‘I consider the game to be only now at the beginning; I will hope, if you please, that the trumps may continue in the same hands to the finale of the party, but I cannot expect it. Similar causes, it is said, and philosophy is a la mode, always produce similar effects; I think I see clearly that those causes now exist and operate in France which I have always seen, followed by disastrous consequences everywhere.

‘I am delighted to hear of the prospect of homeopathy; I am surprised whenever I find truth in vogue. Mr. - seems to be in high spirits, and he tells me that his general health is miraculously good, which he attributes to homeopathy.

‘I spent some hours with Lord - yesterday; he is here for change of air, and quite in exstacies about France; how little I value the judgment of violent party men, be they Whig or Tory.

‘I recommend you to the article in the July Edinburgh Review concerning Jefferson, merely to see what He and Washington, and Adams, and Hamilton thought of the American Constitution, it is curious.

John Ponsonby wrote to Frederick Hervey Foster Quin on 6.10.1830:

Are you so very well founded in believing yourself free from the danger of having your place pre-occupied in London? I particularly esteem it right you should be in London as soon as may be after if not at the meeting in Parliament.

‘It is the moment for an introduction. My only scruple heretofore about giving you the most open and strong advice was derived from the state of your fortune; now that I know it will suffice you for 8-10 years as it is, I have no hesitation to say stoutly go to London; ‘try your luck, or rather show your science; if you fail, what then, you can only fail by the failure of homeopathy; you know that to be true, and that it cannot fail; but if it should prove false you are too honest a man not to be amongst the first to declare it to be so, and too acute not to find out its fallacy as soon as any other man whatever.

‘You can then fall back to where you have been, and I think with advantages’.

John Ponsonby wrote to Frederick Hervey Foster Quin on 2.11.1830:

My Dear Doctor Quin, I think the late trial of St. John Long will be, absurd as it is, a disadvantage to you at this moment, and should you come to London, but a little time will force you from Paris; should I see an opening here I will immediately write to you. I am anxious to speak to Lord Anglesey (Henry William Paget Marquess of Anglesey), and have not yet seen him’…

‘I do not sympathise in your objections to the infra dig. of vending your own medicines, if by so doing you can avoid the noxious provisions of a foolish statute. There is no descending when the end and object is to advance science and promote human welfare.

‘Everybody may be made to know why you assume the status of apothecary, and to what point you limit the exercise of your profession; you will be in fact what you are - MD. Don’t sacrifice things to mere words’.

John Ponsonby wrote to Frederick Hervey Foster Quin in April 1832:

‘Dr. Belluomini (Guiseppe Belluomini) is arrived here, and has brought recommendatory letters to many persons. I am told he has not had personal experience of cholera, but says camphor is the proper remedy. Send me your memoire… (Ponsonby used camphor to treat cholera himself),

‘I am not certain of the advantage to be derived from addressing your pamphlet (on cholera) to the Board of Health. I do not imagine that a work on such a subject as cholera, and which exhibits to the World a new method of cure for that complaint, and which has been proved by experience to be at least in numerous cases effectual, will stand in need of any thing beyond its own intrinsic importance to make it an object of universal attention of all manner of men’,

John Ponsonby, eldest son of the 1st Baron Ponsonby, and brother of William Ponsonby , was born about 1770.

He served as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Irish House of Commons for Tallow between 1793 and 1798, for Banagher between 1797 and 1798. He sat for Dungarvan from 1797 to the Act of Union in 1801, and then in the United Kingdom House of Commons for Galway Borough until 1802.

On the death of his father on 5 November 1806, he succeeded him as Baron Ponsonby, and for some time held an appointment in the Ionian Islands. On 28 February 1826 he went to Buenos Aires as envoy-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary until 1828 and moved then to Rio de Janeiro in the same capacity.

An exceptionally handsome man, he was sent, it was reported, to South America by George Canning to please George IV, who was envious of the attention paid him by Lady Conyngham.

In 1830, he was entrusted with a special mission to Belgium on 1 December 1830, in connection with the candidature of Leopold I Belgium (who was a patient of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, Baron Louis Joseph G Seutin, and Leopold I Belgium knew Samuel Hahnemann well) to the throne, and Ponsonby remained in Brussels until Leopold I Belgium was elected king on 4 June 1831.

His dealings with this matter were adversely criticised in ‘The Guet-à-Pens Diplomacy, or Lord Ponsonby at Brussels, …’ London, 1831. But Charles Grey 2nd Earl Grey eulogised him in the House of Lords on 25 June 1831.

Ponsonby was envoy at Naples from 8 June to 9 November 1832, ambassador at Constantinople from 27 November 1832 to 1841 in which , and ambassador at Vienna from 10 August 1846 to 31 May 1850.

Through Charles Grey 2nd Earl Grey, who had married his sister Mary Elizabeth, he had great influence, but his conduct as an ambassador sometimes occasioned embarrassment to the ministry. He was, however, a keen diplomatist of the old school, a shrewd observer, and a man of large views and strong will (LOFTUS, Diplomatic Reminiscences, 1892, i. 129–30).

He was gazetted G.C.B. on 3 March 1834, and created Viscount Ponsonby, of Imokilly in the County of Cork on 20 April 1839.

The viscount had married, on 13 January 1803, Elizabeth Frances Villiers, fifth daughter of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey. She died at 62 Chester Square, London, on 14 April 1866, having had no issue. (John Ponsonby was thus related by marriage to the family of Sarah Sophia Villiers Countess of Jersey (who was a supporter of homeopathy and she was a friend of the Countess of Blessington),

Ponsonby published Private Letters on the Eastern Question, written at the date thereon, Brighton, 1854, and died at Brighton on 21 February 1855. The viscounty thereupon lapsed, but the barony devolved on his nephew William, son of Sir William Ponsonby.

Of interest:

Frederick Ponsonby 3rd Earl of Bessborough 1758 – 1844, was a British peer.

Harriet Cavendish Granville, wife of Granville Leveson Gower 1st Earl Granville, was Frederick Ponsonby’s cousin, and so he also knew Richard and Robert Verity, the physicians of Harriet Cavendish Granville and Granville Leveson Gower 1st Earl Granville,

Henrietta Ponsonby Countess of Bessborough had an affair and two illegitimate children with Granville Leveson Gower 1st Earl Granville,

Frederick Ponsonby was the eldest son of the 2nd Earl of Bessborough and succeeded to his father’s titles in 1793. On 27 November 1780, he had married Lady Henrietta Spencer (the second daughter of  John Spencer 1st Earl Spencer) and they had four children: John William 1781 – 1847; Frederick Cavendish 1783 – 1837; Caroline 1785 – 1828; William Francis Spencer 1787 – 1855,

Caroline Amelia Gordon Lennox 1819 – 1890, daughter of Charles Gordon Lennox 5th Duke of Richmond, married John Ponsonby 5th Earl of Bessborough (who was a friend of Benjamin Disraeli),

Henry Frederick Ponsonby GCB 1825 – 1895 was the son of the British Army general, Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, and Private Secretary to Queen Victoria, and a friend of Frederick Arthur Wellesley 1844 - 1931,

John George Brabazon Ponsonby 5th Earl of Bessborough, PC 1809 – 1880, styled Viscount Duncannon from 1844 until 1847, was a British cricketer and politician, and a friend of Benjamin Disraeli, and précis writer to Henry John Temple Viscount Palmerston,


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