Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fletcher, Henry (1727-1807)

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FLETCHER, Sir HENRY (1727–1807), politician, a native of Cumberland, was born in 1727. Brought up in the service of the East India Company, he successively commanded two of its vessels, the Stormont and the Middlesex. When he retired from his command, after rendering conspicuous services to the company, he was chosen a director of the East India board, and filled that office for eighteen years (1769–87), being always re-elected when he retired by rotation. He was chairman in 1782–3. Fletcher entered parliament in 1768 for Cumberland, where he had fought successfully against a very powerful influence. He joined the whig opposition in the House of Commons, and on the accession of that party to power was rewarded with a baronetcy, 20 May 1782. In 1783 he gave a general approval to the treaty of peace with France, so far as related to the settlements of the East India Company. When Fox introduced his India Bill, Fletcher, then chairman of the company, was nominated one of the seven commissioners for the affairs of Asia. Fletcher declared in the House of Commons in 1783 that it would have been much better for England, and Europe in general, if the navigation to the East Indies had never been discovered. But having once acquired these Indian possessions, the British must never give them up. Fletcher considered the retention and proper government of India of supreme moment, and sacrificed private interests so as to advocate his views in parliament. Fox's measure, however, was lost, and administrative reform in India was postponed. In 1796 Fletcher voted with the great whig leader for a direct censure upon ministers, on the ground of having advanced money to the Emperor of Germany and the Prince of Condé without the knowledge or consent of parliament. He also supported Grey in the following session in his motion on parliamentary reform. Fletcher continued to represent the county of Cumberland until the general election of 1806. He died on 25 March 1807, and was succeeded in the title by his only son of the same name. The character of Fletcher stood high among his contemporaries for generosity and integrity.

[Gent. Mag. 1807; Hansard's Parliamentary Debates.]

G. B. S.