Ogle, George (1742–1814), politician, was born 14 October 1742, only son of George Ogle (see below) and brought up at Rossmenogue, near Camolin, Co. Wexford. Entrusted, in the absence of his father (who died when he was four), to the care of the local Church of Ireland minister, Lewis Miller, he embraced at an early age the strong commitment to protestantism with which he was identified throughout his adult life. Educated at Kilkenny school, he was admitted to TCD in December 1759, but did not graduate. Following in his father's footsteps, Ogle showed literary promise, and was the author of a number of well-known popular songs, of which ‘Banna's banks’ and ‘Molly Asthore’ were the most highly regarded; ‘Molly Asthore’ was written as a paean to Mary Moore of Tinrahan, Co. Wexford, whose sister Elizabeth (d. 1798) became Ogle's wife in February 1761. Ogle was disinclined to publish either his poetic or musical creations, though his participation in Lady Miller's literary salon at Bath resulted in the inclusion of one of his poems in the volume Poetical amusements at a villa near Bath (1775), and examples of his work were included in collections of popular songs assembled in the nineteenth century by Thomas Crofton Croker (qv) and Samuel Lover (qv).
Ogle's reluctance to publish may have been influenced by his perception that it would not assist his political aspirations. He was first elected to the house of commons ‘in his own interest’ (Bodkin, 219) for Co. Wexford in 1769 to fill the seat left vacant by the elevation of Henry Loftus to the peerage. It was the first of four electoral victories that meant that Ogle represented the constituency without interruption for thirty-eight years. Though determined to maintain his political independence, Ogle was strongly drawn towards the loose coalition of opposition interests in the commons by his ‘antipathy’ (ibid.) to the controversial lord lieutenant, George, Lord Townshend (qv). Ogle quickly established himself as a respected parliamentary performer, though he was not one of the commons’ leading orators because, in the words of an informed contemporary, ‘his fund of knowledge seems not very abundant, nor his sources of information copious’ (Falkland, 25). However, he compensated for his oratorical limitations by his readiness to raise difficult issues, and this melded with his directness to endear him to the growing popular protestant constituency; they admired his outspokenness, as illustrated by his recommendation in December 1773 that a bill amended by the British privy council ‘should be thrown on the floor, and the clerk ordered to kick it ignominiously out of doors’ (Hibernian Journal, 29 Dec. 1773). Two years later he urged in respect of a similar measure that it should be ‘burnt before the door of the parliament by the common hangman’ (Almon, 118). Such comments caused the Irish administration to conclude in 1775 that he was committed to opposition and ‘not to be detached from his party’ (Hunt, 39), but Ogle was insistent that he was not a member of any interest. ‘The evil spirit of opposition never possessed me’ (Black, ii, 200), he informed MPs in 1777. He was, he maintained, guided by conviction, and his protests were accorded sufficient credence for it to be accepted generally by the mid-1770s that he was ‘a very independent man’ (Johnston, 350).
Ogle's definition of his role as that ‘of guardian . . . of . . . publick liberty’ as defined at the time of the Glorious Revolution, and his determination to ‘stand forth [as] the Champion of this country’ (Black, ii, 200) certainly consolidated his reputation with the protestant public. Applause was also forthcoming for his participation with Denis Daly (qv), Henry Grattan (qv), Barry Yelverton (qv), and others in resisting government policy in respect of the American colonies. He singled out for particular attention the imposition of an embargo on Ireland's freedom to trade following the outbreak of war – of which he observed memorably that ‘a war begun in folly would end in ruin’ (Black, iii, 428) – but the persistence with which he took up familiar financial issues and the frequency with which he called the administration to account in respect of tax increases, revenue shortfalls, and the misapplication of funds were no less significant. He was certainly capable of disturbing the equilibrium of the Irish administration with his short, punchy contributions and his direct approach.
Despite his outspoken criticism of government in Britain and Ireland during the late 1770s, Ogle's conviction that it was the ‘duty’ of Irish MPs to take whatever steps were necessary to ‘protect’ the kingdom of Ireland rather than to subordinate its interests to those of Great Britain did not cause him to question the value of the British connection. He was less than happy, at the same time, that Ireland was ‘obliged to England for protection’, and as the threat of an invasion from France increased in the late 1770s and the Irish administration declined to support his calls for the establishment of a militia, he became an enthusiastic Volunteer. Ogle's commitment to ‘volunteering’ was sustained by his attachment to the whig concept of the citizen soldier, but it was also informed by his conclusion that it was necessary to assemble the protestant citizenry in arms to combat the threat from the catholic population of internal civil unrest.
Ogle was strongly committed to upholding the existing protestant constitution, and it was this conviction that guided him in his resistance to the proposal in 1778 to repeal many of the laws against catholics. ‘The popery laws’, he explained to the house of commons on 4 August, ‘were not meant as acts of persecution . . . [but] as . . . barriers to protect the Protestant Church and State’ (Cavendish, parliamentary diary, xiii, 167), and his commitment to protect ‘the constitution, . . . the Protestant interest, . . . landed property . . . and the church and state in Ireland’ (ibid., x, 2) prompted him to offer strong opposition to the legislation. He could not prevent a generous measure of catholic relief reaching the statute book, but he successfully ensured that catholics were not allowed to purchase land in fee simple on the grounds that it was unwise to put catholics and protestants on an equal footing in respect of their right to own land. Despite this, he was, he insisted, not opposed in principle to catholic relief. He was willing, he explained in the more tolerant days of 1782 when the matter at issue was the removal of disabilities affecting the catholic church, ‘to give the Papists every indulgence consistent with the safety’ of the protestant constitution (Parl. reg. Ire., i, 200), and his position in the division lobbies bears out this statement.
Ogle entertained no such reservations in respect of the efforts of the patriot interest with which he was ideologically identified in the late 1770s and early 1780s to secure commercial and constitutional reform. Thus, as well as joining with the patriots in the division lobbies and speaking in support of the motions they proposed, he became a member of an exclusive patriot club, the Knights of the Order of St Patrick (more popularly known as the Monks of the Screw). As a result, the Irish administration continued to regard him as a member of the opposition, whereas his own perception was that his conduct was in keeping with his whig principles and his political independence. He emphasised this fact when, following the arrival in Ireland in 1782 of the whig lord lieutenant, the duke of Portland (qv), he was prompted by the generous manner in which Portland oversaw the concession of legislative independence to gravitate towards the administration. He was encouraged in this direction by his contentment with the ‘simple repeal’ of the Declaratory Act of 1719, as well as by his increasingly straitened financial circumstances. Having pursued a course of ‘prodigal spending’ (Bodkin, 219), as a result of which he was obliged to sell part of his estates, Ogle identified a remunerative government office as an apposite way to ease his financial difficulties. Dublin Castle was understandably cautious, but their resistance eased considerably when Ogle's pronouncement at the grand national convention of Volunteer delegates in November 1783, that catholics did not seek admission to the franchise, contributed to the failure to advance the cause of parliamentary reform at this time.
The first reward to come his way was his elevation to the Irish privy council, but this was of less material import than his appointment in 1784 to the patentee position of registrar of deeds. Worth an estimated £1,700 from the mid-1780s, this position not only eased Ogle's financial problems but also gave him considerable freedom of action as he could not simply be dismissed for refusing to support the administration in the house of commons. Ogle used this freedom to take an independent stand on such major issues as parliamentary reform in 1784, the commercial propositions in 1785, and the regency crisis in 1788–9. He was largely content otherwise to support the administration, which regarded him as a ‘friend’, and, as his mounting preoccupation with the preservation in 1786 of what he famously termed ‘Protestant ascendancy’ illustrated, he was drawn irrevocably towards a more conservative political position as the maintenance of a wholly ‘Protestant constitution’ moved to the top of his political agenda.
The early 1790s was the turning point in this respect, as Ogle's strident opposition in 1792 and 1793 to the proposal to enfranchise catholics on the grounds that it would ‘overturn . . . the Protestant ascendancy’ (Parl. reg. Ire., xii, 127) proved insufficient. Like many others who were disturbed by this turn of events, he made a political volte-face and professed his belief that Irish protestants would find security only in an Anglo-Irish union. In keeping with this conclusion, he devoted less time to parliamentary politics in the mid-1790s, and he declined to stand for re-election in 1797. He occupied himself, meanwhile, with the task of maintaining public order following his appointment as governor of Co. Wexford in 1796, but his profile and reputation were such that he could not avoid a return to politics. He was re-elected with the backing of a powerful phalanx of neo-conservative interests as MP for Dublin city in the summer of 1798 and he undertook ‘to devote his life and whatever talents he was possessed of to the support of our happy constitution, and for ever [to] maintain the PROTESTANT ASCENDANCY’ (Freeman's Journal, 2 Aug. 1798).
George Ogle accepted the instructions of his conservative Dublin supporters to vote against a legislative union in 1799–1800. His willingness to do so, when he had previously expressed his conviction that a union offered the best guarantee of protection for Irish protestants, was indicative of how completely he had imbibed the political principles of protestant neo-conservatism, and of his pleasure at being one of its leading spokesmen. His election to represent Dublin city at Westminster in 1801 underlined this, though he was not to enjoy the privilege for long. He failed to retain his parliamentary seat in a tense and difficult election in 1802, and though his nomination meanwhile to serve as grand master of the Orange Order offered some compensation for this reverse he withdrew gradually from public life. He died on 10 August 1814, some sixteen years after his wife, and was buried in Ballycarney churchyard, Co. Wexford. He was childless.
His father George Ogle (1704–46), translator and politician, was born in May 1704, the second son of Samuel Ogle (1659–1718) of Bowsden, Northumberland, MP for Berwick upon Tweed (1690–1710) and Belfast (1707–13) and commissioner of the revenue for Ireland, and Ursula Ogle (née Markham). The owner of a number of properties in the barony of Bargy, Co. Wexford, he was elected MP for the borough of Bannow in that county in 1727, but he did not play an active role in the house of commons. He devoted his life instead to academic pursuits and achieved some renown as a translator. He possessed a particular interest in Horace, whose epistles and satires provided the subjects for three works of translation published in the mid-1730s. He participated with Pope and Dryden in the production of the Tales of Chaucer modernised (1741–2), in which his main contribution was to the prologues, and he produced a curious antiquarian study of gemstones – Antiquities explained: being a collection of figured gems, illustrated by similar descriptions taken from the classics (London, 1737) – in which well-executed engravings of individual gems were accompanied by illustrative classical quotations in translation. Ogle married Frances, the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Thomas Twysden, bt, of Roydon Hall, Kent; and died 20 October 1746.