Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coke, Daniel Parker

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COKE, DANIEL PARKER (1745–1825), politician, born on 17 July 1745, was the only son of Thomas Coke, barrister-at-law, a younger member of the Cokes of Trusley, whose settlement in Derbyshire dates from the reign of Edward lit. By the death of his grand-uncle, William Coke, without male issue, he became, after his father, the chief representative of the family, though this distinction was not accompanied by any addition of fortune, the patrimonial estate of Trusley descending in the female line. He was educated under the Rev. Thomas Manlove, and matriculated at All Souls, Oxford, in 1762; B.A. 1769, M.A. 1772. He was called to the bar and practised for many years on the midland circuit. He made his first appearance in the House of Commons in 1775 as member for Derby, which he represented till 1780. At the general election in that year he visited the neighbouring town of Nottingham to assist the tory candidate Sir Edward Every, brought forward by the tory party, and was himself nominated and elected along with Mr. Robert Smith (whig) [q. v.], afterwards Lord Carrington. He sat for Nottingham till 1812. Six years later he resigned the chairmanship of the quarter sessions for the county of Derby, and finally withdrew from public life. He died at his house, The College, Derby, on 6 Dec. 1825, aged 80, and was buried in the local church of All Saints. He was never married.

In Coke's time the French revolution was the chief political topic. At the general election in 1802 the excitement in Nottingham was so great that he suffered personal violence and was obliged to leave the town. The polling went against him, but a committee of the House of Commons declared the election void for want of freedom, and, on the issue of a new writ, he was re-elected. The alleged supineness of the mayor and local authorities in preserving order led him to promote a bill extending the jurisdiction of the county magistrates to the borough; the measure, which ultimately became law, was an obvious blow to whig interests, and was earnestly opposed by the whig leader, Fox. But though faithful to his party Coke was not a bigoted politician. He held a brief for the crown in the prosecution of the ringleaders of the Church and King mob, which in 1791 sacked Dr. Priestley's house in Birmingham, and said in opening the case: 'Had I been in Birmingham when his (Dr. Priestley's) property was attacked, I would have lost my life in his defence, and this sentiment I hold all the more strongly because I do differ from him.' At the dose of the American war he was appointed one of the commissioners for settling the American claims, but this position he shortly afterwards resigned.

He was a frequent speaker in the House of Commons, particularly during the administration of Lord North, and, considering his political connections, some of his views were decidedly untraditional. Thus during a financial discussion (4 Dec. 1783) he suggested the taxation of the stalls of deans and prebends, whom he characterised as the most useless of ecclesiastics. He proposed a like charge on church pews appropriated to private families and municipal corporations; and in recommending a tax on gravestones he condemned, on sanitary grounds, the burial of the dead in churches. In the previous year (May 1782) he raised a debate on the proposal to form volunteer corps in certain large towns, of which the Rockingham ministry had accepted the responsibility. He considered it necessary that the measure should be sanctioned by parliament, and he was apprehensive that public liberties might be endangered by the arming of evil-disposed persons. He was answered by Fox, then one of the secretaries of state. In a nomination speech in 1803 he declared it was 'quite fair' that landlords should exercise political influence over their tenants, and that he would be 'sorry to see the day when men of property would not use such influence.' In commercial policy he was a strong protectionist, and in the interests of his constituents supported the restrictions on Irish industries. Judged by the standard of his time his public career was marked by independence, moderation, and sober feeling.

[Burke's Landed Gentry (1838); Gent. Mag. xcv. 569; List of Members of Parliament (official return of); Parliamentary Debates; Button's Nottingham Date Book, 1750-1850 (1852); Blackner's History of Nottingham, 1815; The Paper War carried on at the Nottingham Election, 1803.]

J. M. S.