Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cooper, Grey

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COOPER, Sir GREY (d. 1801), politician, was lineally descended from John Cooper, who is said to have been created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1638. Sir John Cooper, the son and successor of the first baronet, died without issue, but the title was assumed in 1775 by Sir Grey, the great-grandson of the Rev. James Cooper, the second baronet's next brother. Cooper, who was a native of Newcastle-on-Tyne, entered at the Temple, and was in due time called to the bar, but on the formation of the Rockingham ministry in 1765 he plunged into politics in support of the new ministry. A pamphlet published anonymously, but believed to have been the composition of Charles Lloyd, private secretary to George Grenville, was issued in that year, and from the circumstance of its authorship attracted some attention. It was entitled ‘An Honest Man's Reasons for declining to take any part in the New Administration,’ and was promptly answered by Cooper in two anonymous productions, the first called ‘A Pair of Spectacles for Short-sighted Politicians; or a Candid Answer to a late extraordinary Pamphlet, entitled “An Honest Man's Reasons, &c.,”’ 1765, and the second entitled ‘The Merits of the New Administration truly stated,’ 1765. These brochures recommended him to the notice of the Rockingham ministry as a fit holder of the office of secretary of the treasury, but as his acceptance of the post would have involved his abandonment of a legal career, he did not consent to change his mode of life until he had secured ‘an adequate pension in case of dismission.’ His services as joint secretary of the treasury were so acceptable that he was continued therein under the successive governments of Lord Chatham, Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1765–82). On the downfall of the last ministry he went out of office, but on the formation in 1783 of the coalition cabinet of North and Fox he became a lord of the treasury, and remained there until the dismissal of the ministry by the king, after which date he never resumed office. While one of the treasury secretaries under Lord North he managed the Cornish boroughs and the duchy revenues, but with these exceptions his energies were confined to the more legitimate duties of his office. In December 1765 he stood for Rochester against John Calcraft and was duly elected. At the dissolution in 1768 he was returned for Grampound, from 1774 to 1784 he sat for Saltash, and from 1786 to 1790 he was one of the members for Richmond in Yorkshire. Cooper's administrative abilities were justly esteemed, and he was considered a high authority on financial questions. During the debates on the commercial treaty with France (1787) he took an active part in the opposition, and yielded to few ‘in his accurate knowledge of the complicated interests which it included.’ On this and the other financial measures of Pitt he directed a keen and searching criticism. Cooper retired from public life some years before his death, and his nomination in 1796 as a privy councillor was a worthy tribute to his past services as a public official. He died very suddenly at Worlington, Suffolk, on 30 July 1801, aged 75, and was buried in the church, where is a monument to his memory. His first wife (1753) was Margaret, daughter of Sir Henry Grey of Howick, who died without issue in 1755. His second wife (1762) was Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Kennedy of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; she died at Worlington on 3 Nov. 1809, aged 75, having had issue two sons and two daughters. One of these sons came into possession in 1797, under a reversionary patent, of the post of auditor of the land revenue in nearly every county in England, a place worth about 2,000l. per annum, and Cooper was supposed to share in the emoluments. Two of Cooper's letters on public affairs are in the ‘Correspondence of the first Lord Auckland,’ i. 357–9, 361–2, several to Sir Philip Francis are in the ‘Memoirs of Francis,’ ii. 41, 85, and many sprightly notes from him are in ‘Garrick's Correspondence,’ vols. i. and ii. He was the author, in addition to the works already stated, of ‘The State of Proceedings in the House of Commons on the Petition of the Duke and Duchess of Athol, relating to the Isle of Man,’ 1769, and of ‘Stanzas … inscribed to the Reverend William Mason, as a Testimony of Esteem and Friendship.’

[Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 19167, f. 9; Gent. Mag. 1801, pt. ii. 769–70, 1809, p. 1084; Wraxall's Memoirs (1884 ed.), i. 428, iii. 56, iv. 402, v. 99; Almon's Anecdotes, i. 92–4; Albemarle's Rockingham, i. 309–10; Grenville Papers, iv. 157; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. vi. 700–1.]

W. P. C.