Colonel Barré, c. 1765, by Douglas Hamilton
|Member of the British Parliament|
for Calne (UK Parliament constituency)
1774 – 1790
|Member of Parliament|
for Chipping Wycombe (UK Parliament constituency)
1761 – 1774
Serving with Robert Waller
|Preceded by||Viscount FitzMaurice|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Fitzmaurice|
|Paymaster of the Forces|
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Shelburne|
|Preceded by||Edmund Burke|
|Succeeded by||Edmund Burke|
|Treasurer of the Navy|
|Prime Minister||Lord Rockingham|
|Preceded by||Welbore Ellis|
|Succeeded by||Henry Dundas|
|Died||20 July 1802|
Mayfair, London, England
|Resting place||St. Mary Churchyard, East Raynham, England|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Dublin|
Isaac Barré (1726 – 20 July 1802) was an Irish soldier and politician. He earned distinction serving with the British Army during the Seven Years' War and later became a prominent Member of Parliament, in which role he became a vocal supporter of William Pitt. He is known for coining the term "Sons of Liberty" in reference to American Whigs opposed to the British government's policies.
He was the son of Peter Barré, a Huguenot refugee who became a linen dealer and had served as High Sheriff of Dublin City. He was educated at Trinity College, and graduated in 1745. While his parents had hoped he would study law, and although he had potential as an actor, Barré instead entered the British Army in 1746.
After studying at Trinity College, he joined the 32nd regiment of foot as an ensign in 1746, and was promoted to lieutenant in 1755, and captain in 1756. He served under his patron General James Wolfe on the Rochefort expedition of 1757, when he first met Lord Shelburne, and afterwards in Canada where he was appointed adjutant-general, fighting at both Louisbourg (1758) and Quebec (1759). In 1759, he was promoted to major, but the rank applied only during his service in America. In the Quebec expedition, in which Wolfe was killed, Barré was severely wounded by a bullet in the cheek and lost the use of his right eye, and was among the group gathered around the dying Wolfe, immortalised in Benjamin West's celebrated picture.
Returning to England in September 1760, despite many years of commendable service, Barré was denied promotion by William Pitt the Elder and turned to Shelburne for help. After undertaking a tour of Shelburne's Irish estates, he was advanced to lieutenant colonel of the regiment of 106th Foot at Shelburne's instigation, and in 1763 he was appointed to the lucrative posts of adjutant general of the British army and Governor of Stirling Castle.
Shelburne introduced him to Lord Bute and brought him into parliament for his borough of Chipping Wycombe (1761–1774), having been selected by Shelburne "as a bravo to run down Mr. Pitt", and then for Calne (1774–1790). One of the few self-made soldiers in parliament, Barré became one of Shelburne's principal supporters in the House of Commons. In his first political speech, he vehemently attacked the absent war minister William Pitt, renewing this assault the next day to Pitt's face. This caused a sensation, and set the tone of a long and colourful parliamentary career in which he acquired a fearsome reputation as an orator. However, he ultimately became a devoted Pitt adherent.
A vigorous opponent of the taxation of America, Barré displayed his mastery of invective in his championship of the American cause, and the name "Sons of Liberty", which he had applied to the colonists in one of his speeches, became a common designation of American organisations directed against the Stamp Act, as well as later patriotic clubs. From 1766 to 1768, Barré was a Vice Treasurer of Ireland. His 1782 appointment as Treasurer of the Navy, which carried a pension of £3,200 a year at a time when the government was ostensibly advocating stringency, caused great discontent. William Pitt the Younger replied that the pension was compensation for Barré's dismissal from his military offices in 1763; he then appointed Barré to the even more lucrative position of Paymaster General of the forces, with responsibility for England's entire army payroll, which he held from August 1782 to April 1783. In 1784, Barré relinquished his pension in exchange for appointment to the sinecure of Clerk of the Pells. Nominally responsible for maintaining records of all Exchequer income and payments, the Clerk of the Pells was paid on a percentage system, which enabled Barré to accumulate a sizable fortune.
Barré's knowledge of North America (he was one of the few politicians with friendships among the American mercantile classes) made him a champion of the colonists, whom he famously dubbed "Sons of Liberty" while opposing the intended Stamp Act, which nevertheless passed on 6 February 1765. An example of his fiery oratory was his response to Charles Townshend's observation when introducing the Stamp Act resolutions that the colonies should "contribute to the mother country which had planted, nurtured and indulged them", to which he replied:
They planted by your care! No, your oppressions planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated, inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and among others to the cruelties of a savage foe and actuated by principles of true English liberties, they met all hardships with pleasure compared with those they suffered in their own country from the hands of those who should be their friends.
In the Stamp Act crisis, Barré not only championed repeal but also followed Pitt in opposing the complete right of taxation as stated in the Declaratory Act. His efforts against the Stamp Act were commemorated in America with the founding in 1769 of the Pennsylvania town of Wilkes-Barre, named for John Wilkes and Isaac Barré. The towns of Barre, Massachusetts and Barre, Vermont were also named in his honour.
Horace Walpole described Barré as "a black [meaning his hair was black], robust man, of a military figure, rather hard-favoured than not, young, with a peculiar distortion on one side of his face, which it seems was a bullet lodged loosely in his cheek, and which gave a savage glare to one eye".
Death and burial
Barré's residuary legatee was Anne Townshend, Marchioness Townshend, whom he had known before her marriage to George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend. She received approximately £24,000 (equivalent to about £2.3 million in 2018, or $3.2 million).
The town of Barre, Massachusetts is named for him, as is the city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. There are also a town and a city named for Barré in Vermont (Barre City and Barre Town), as well as the towns of Barre, New York and Barre, Wisconsin. In addition, there is a memorial to Barré in New York City, and numerous eastern US cities have named streets for him.
- "Barré, Isaac". The Columbia University (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. December 2007. Archived from the original on 10 February 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
- Distinguished Huguenot Refugees and Their Descendants
- Petrillo, F. Charles (1988). "Wilkes Naming Wilkes-Barre". John Wilkes and Isaac Barre: Politics and Controversy in Eighteenth Century Graphics. Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes University. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
- Miner, Sidney Roby (1901). Colonel Isaac Barré, 1726-1802: Orator, Soldier, Statesman and Friend of the American Colonies. Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wyoming Historical & Genealogical Society. pp. 20–21.
- George Thomas, Earl of Albemarle, Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham and His Contemporaries, London: Bentley, 1852
- Colonel Isaac Barré, 1726-1802, p. 21.
- "Norfolk, England Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1535-1812, entry for Issac Barre". Ancestry.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com, LLC. July 30, 1802. Retrieved March 17, 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
- Colonel Isaac Barré, 1726-1802, pp. 21–22.
- Colonel Isaac Barré, 1726-1802, p. 22.
- Early American Paintings: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in the Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Brooklyn, NY: Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. 1917. p. 82.
- Early American Paintings, p. 82.
- Director of Art and Antiquities. "Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Barre Monument". City Hall Park Monuments. New York, NY: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Barré, Isaac.|
- Webb, Alfred (1878). " Barré, Isaac". A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: M. H. Gill & son. Wikisource
- National Portrait Gallery (UK): Isaac Barré
| Treasurer of the Navy
| Paymaster of the Forces
Sir Edward Walpole
| Clerk of the Pells
|Parliament of Great Britain|
| Member of Parliament for Wycombe
With: Robert Waller
Hon. Thomas FitzMaurice
Hon. Thomas FitzMaurice
| Member of Parliament for Calne
With: John Dunning 1774–1782
James Townsend 1782–1787
Joseph Jekyll 1787–1790