Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/King, Peter (1776-1833)

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KING, PETER, seventh Lord King, Baron of Ockham, Surrey (1776–1833), born 31 Aug. 1776, was eldest son of Peter, the sixth baron, by Charlotte, daughter of Edward Tredcroft of Horsham, and was great-grandson of Lord-chancellor King [see King, Peter, first Lord King]. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and succeeded to the title in 1793. After a short tour on the continent he returned to England on coming of age, and took his seat in the House of Lords. True to the whig traditions of his family, he acted with Lord Holland [see Fox, Henry Richard Vassall], whose motion for an inquiry into the causes of the failure of the expedition to the Low Countries he supported in his maiden speech, 12 Feb. 1800. His habits, however, were somewhat recluse, and except to oppose a Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill, or a bill to prolong the suspension of cash payments by the Banks of England and Ireland, begun in 1797, he at first rarely intervened in debate. Of the currency question he made a profound study, the fruit of which was seen in a pamphlet entitled ‘Thoughts on the Restriction of Payments in Specie at the Banks of England and Ireland,’ London, 1803, 8vo, 2nd edit. Much enlarged, it was reissued as ‘Thoughts on the Effects of the Bank Restrictions,’ 1804, 8vo, and was reprinted in ‘A Selection’ from King's speeches and writings, edited by Earl Fortescue, London, 1844, 8vo. In this classical tract King established that the suspension had caused an excessive issue of notes, particularly by the Bank of Ireland, and a consequent depreciation of the paper and appreciation of bullion, and advocated a gradual return to the system of specie payment. It was reviewed by Horner in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ (ii. 402 et seq.), and attracted much attention, but produced no practical result; and, the depreciation increasing, King in 1811 gave his leasehold tenantry notice that he could no longer accept notes in payment of rent, except at a discount varying according to the date of the lease. Ministers, alarmed lest his example should be followed generally, hastily introduced a measure making notes of the Banks of England and Ireland payable on demand legal tender in payment of rent out of court, and prohibiting the acceptance or payment of more than 21s. for a guinea. King opposed the bill, and justified his own conduct in an able and spirited speech (afterwards published in pamphlet form); but it passed into law, and was followed in 1812 by a measure making the notes legal tender in all cases (stat. 51 Geo. III, c. 127, 52 Geo. III, c. 50). King was from the first, and as long as he lived, a determined opponent of the corn laws, which he denounced as a ‘job of jobs.’ He supported catholic emancipation and the commutation of tithes, and opposed grants in aid of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, pluralities and other abuses, and was suspected of a leaning to presbyterianism (see Hierarchia versus Anarchiam, &c., by Antischismaticus, London, 1831, 8vo, and A Letter to Lord King controverting the sentiments lately delivered in Parliament by his Lordship, Mr. O'Connell, and Mr. Sheil, as to the fourfold division of Tithes, by James Thomas Law, London, 1832, 8vo). A career of increasing distinction was, by his sudden death, cut short on 4 June 1833. King married, on 26 May 1804, Lady Hester Fortescue, daughter of Hugh, first earl Fortescue, by whom he had (with two daughters) two sons—William King, who was created Earl of Lovelace in 1838, and Peter John Locke King [q. v.]

Besides the tract on the currency, King published:

  1. A pamphlet ‘On the Conduct of the British Government towards the Catholics of Ireland,’ 1807.
  2. ‘Speech in the House of Lords on the second reading of Earl Stanhope's Bill respecting Guineas and Bank Notes.’
  3. ‘The Life of John Locke, with extracts from his Correspondence, Journals, and Commonplace Books,’ London, 1829, 4to; new edition, with considerable additions, 1830, 2 vols. 8vo; another in Bohn's Standard Library, London, 1858, 1 vol. 8vo.
  4. 'A Short History of the Job of Jobs,' written in 1825, first published as an anti-cornlaw pamphlet, London, 1846, 8vo.

[The principal authority is A Selection from the Speeches and Writings of the late Lord King, with a short introductory Memoir by Earl Fortescue, London, 1844, 8vo. See also Gent. Mag. 1833. pt. ii. p. 80; Brougham's Historical Sketches of Statesman who flourished in the time of Geo. III., 2nd ser. pp. 172 et seq.; Yonge's Life of Lord Liverpool, iii. 170; Lord Colchester's Diary, vol. iii.; Parl. Hist, and Hansard; Horner's Memoirs, ii. 92; Collins's Peerage (Brydges), vii, 92; Burke's Peerage, 'Lovelace;' Edinburgh Review, 1. 1 et seq).]

J. M. R.