Lee, George (1700-1758) (DNB00)

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LEE, Sir GEORGE (1700–1758), lawyer and politician, fifth son of Sir Thomas Lee, second baronet, who married Alice, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Hopkins, citizen of London, was born in 1700. His elder brother was Sir William Lee [q. v.], the judge. He was entered at Clare College, Cambridge, but migrated to Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated 4 April 1720, and took the degrees of B.C.L. 1724 and D.C.L. 1729. On 23 Oct. 1729 he was admitted advocate at Doctors' Commons, and soon obtained much business. He was returned to parliament as member for Brackley, Northamptonshire, on 25 Jan. 1 732-3, and represented it until March 1741-2, when he accepted office. Afterwards he represented in turn Devizes (1742-7), Liskeard (1747-54), and Launceston (1754-8). He acted with the adherents of Prince Frederick, and his election as chairman of committee of privileges and elections on 16 Dec. 1741, when he defeated the ministerial nominee, Giles Earle [q. v.], by four votes, presaged Walpole's downfall. Through Lord Carteret's influence, and to the chagrin of the Prince of Wales, he was appointed a lord of the admiralty on 19 March 1742, and when Carteret lost his place of secretary of state, Lee refused the oners of his opponents and followed him into retirement. In the little band of advisers of Frederick, prince of Wales, at Leicester House his opinion was most frequently adopted, and the prince often toasted him in social life as the future chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. Immediately on the prince's death he joined the widow in burning all his private papers, and, in spite of the opposition of the Pelhams, was made treasurer of her household (1751). From 1751 until his death he held the offices of dean of arches and judge of the prerogative court of Canterbury, and he was duly knighted (12 Feb. 1752) and made a privy councillor (13 Feb.) In 1757 Lee resigned his place of treasurer to the princess dowager in consequence of the rise into favour of Lord Bute, but his defection attracted little notice, as the princess's adherents had for some time slackened in their opposition to the ministry. When the Duke of Newcastle proposed in to form an administration, with the exclusion of Pitt from office, Lee reluctantly agreed to be chancellor of the exchequer but the duke, almost at once and without the least notice ' to those who had agreed to join him, abandoned his scheme. On 18 Dec. Lee died suddenly at his house in St. James's Square, London, and was buried on 28 Dec. in the family vault underneath the east end of Hartwell Church, Buckinghamshire. He married, on 5 June 1742, Judith, second daughter of Humphry Morice of Werrington, near Launceston, Cornwall, by his wife, a daughter of Thomas Sandys of London. She died on 19 July 1743, aged 33, and was buried on 1 Aug. in the vault of the Lee family in Hartwell Church. Sir George died without issue, and left all his fortune to his nephew, Sir William Lee, the fourth baronet.

Lee was an effective speaker, with an impressive voice, but his success in his profession disqualified him for the highest posts in the ministry. Many volumes of his notebooks are in Hartwell library, and his deci- sions gave general satisfaction. Two volumes of his judgments were edited by Dr. Joseph Phillimore in 1838, a digest of the cases in the reports of Lee and other eminent lawyers was published by Dr. Maddy in 1835, and Dr. George Harris dedicated to him in 1756 his translation of 'the four books of Justinian's Institutions.' An exposition of the nature and extent of the jurisdiction exercised by courts of law over ships and cargoes of neutral powers established within the territories of belligerent states, which was in answer to a memorial from the king of Prussia, is believed to have been written by him and Lord Mansfield, and has been generally accepted by jurists as authoritative. Portraits of his wife and himself are at Hartwell; the likeness of him, which was painted by Wills, was engraved by John Faber, jun.

[Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, ii. 306–24; Smyth's Ædes Hartwellianæ, pp. 66–80, 114–17, Addenda, pp. 136–49; Phillimore's Reports (1833), i. pp. xi–xvii; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Waldegrave's Memoirs, pp. 109, 113; Dodington's Diary, passim; Coxe's Horatio Lord Walpole, ii. 289, 418; Walpole's Last Ten Years of George II (1846 ed.), i. 90–1, iii. 28; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, i. 94, 100, 174, ii. 144, 247, 374; Coxe's Sir Robert Walpole, i. 691, iii. 582–3; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 657; J. C. Smith's Cat. of Portraits, i. 387.]

W. P. C.